FTA Seeks Comments on How to Define a ‘Federal Project’

July 17, 2018 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

uncle-sam-we-want-you1Once again, the federal government is asking for your input. Now through Aug. 17, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be hosting an online dialog to collect public comments on how to best define a “federal project” that is subject to federal requirements, and how that definition may impact the timely and effective implementation of transit projects.

A federal project typically requires grant applicants for projects to complete many phases or elements ranging from those enacted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to regulations for Metropolitan and Statewide Transportation Planning, procurement and Buy America, all of which is discussed in Tab 500 in Thompson’s Federal Grants Management Handbook. FTA now seeks input from state departments of transportation, transit agencies, transit operators and other stakeholders on how a “federal project” definition affects project delivery and solicits opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase or project element is subject to federal requirements.

FTA said the dialog is part of an effort to expedite investment in transit infrastructure by excluding some projects or project elements from potentially burdensome federal requirements. FTA intends to review the thresholds for defining whether a project or project element qualifies as federally funded, and thus subject to federal grant management requirements. Environmental groups, however, have been critical of federal attempts to sidestep usual requirements such as NEPA for the sake of “expediting projects.”

FTA is enabling participants to present their own idea, vote on other ideas or submit a comment. Among the questions FTA seeks comment on include the following:

  • Should FTA require all federal requirements to apply to the entire project if any portion or phase of a project receives federal funding?
  • How does the application of federal requirements to nonfederally funded portions or phases of a project affect project delivery or cost? If so, how?
  • Would applying federal requirements and oversight to only federally funded portion or phases of projects expedite project delivery?
  • If not, how should FTA define the federal project?
  • Should FTA look at the phases of a project to determine what is federal or nonfederal? If so, how? How would this impact project delivery? [As an example, if a rail line is to be built in three phrases, should FTA define the entire rail line as a federal project, or only the phase receiving federal funds]
  • Should FTA define a more-limited federal project based on project activities applied for or used as local match in a grant? If so, how? How would this impact project delivery? (Examples could include: funding construction of guideway with federal funds and permitting the purchase of necessary vehicles to use local funds. Another example would be to permit State of Good Repair funds to be used for force account labor expenses while the materials or equipment used in the activity use local funds. In both cases the vehicles or equipment could not be included as match for the grant.)
  • Is the definition of the federal project a barrier or incentive to private sector participation?
  • How would changing the definition of a federal project impact private sector participation?
  • Does the applicability of federal requirements discourage private sector participation? If so, how? If not, what are the advantages of federal requirements?
  • Are there implementation impacts or considerations FTA has not addressed in these questions?

If you have any views on these issues, feel free to comment to FTA and let them know your thoughts and concerns. The public doesn’t always get a voice in regulatory change so take advantage of this opportunity.

We’d like to know your thoughts about this as well. Let us know how you feel about defining federal projects.

As a reminder, we have all of our Federal Funding Training Forums scheduled for 2018. Please let me know if you have questions or can make any of these. We hope to see you there!

  • Wednesday July 25 – Friday July 27 in MINNEAPOLIS


  • Wednesday October 17 – Friday October 19 in ATLANTA



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