Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program Recovery Act FAQs
1. What is the name of the final legislation?
Answer 1: The legislation is known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The acronym is ARRA and Public Law 111-5.
2. Is the Federal Lands Highway Program included in ARRA?
Answer 2: The four core programs of the Federal Lands Highway Program are included. The amounts are as follows:
3. How will the ARRA funds be administered and distributed?
Answer 3: The ARRA funds made available to the IRR Program will be administered in accordance with Chapter 2 of Title 23. For the IRR Program, this means that the funds will be distributed through the RNDF and PAF components of the TTAM formula. Given the intent of the ARRA, the 2% planning takedown will not be calculated. The IRRHPP will be funded and included based upon the intent of the program and its applicability to projects. The FY09 RNDF percentages and PAF amounts will be used in determining tribal shares. ARRA funds are 100% Federal share and like IRR funds, can be used to satisfy local match requirements on construction projects.
4. How will funding get to the Tribes?
Answer 4: The funds will be allocated to FHWA. FHWA will withhold the funding amount associated with the Tribes under FHWA/Tribal IRR Program Agreements and will then reallocate the remainder to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). All funds will be kept at the respective agencies until such time that the required documentation is received and approved by BIA-Division of Transportation (BIA-DOT) and FHWA. Except for specific cases submitted to and approved by BIA and FHWA, funds will not be provided for both the design and construction of a project simultaneously (see below).
5. What is the required documentation that must be submitted to and approved by FHWA and BIA-DOT prior to headquarters releasing the funds?
Answer 5: The documentation required by FHWA and BIA-DOT that must be submitted for approval includes:
For construction funding, in addition to the above the following must also be submitted:
6. What is the length of time on availability of the ARRA funds?
Answer 6: The ARRA IRR funds are available for obligation until September 30, 2010. Funds released or de-obligated after that date immediately expire and will not be available for re-obligation by any agency. As a result, all contracts/agreements must be finalized and funds obligated prior to this date.
7. How will the redistribution of funds work?
Answer 7: In order to assure the utilization of the ARRA funds, the Secretary of Transportation has been given the authority to assemble unobligated funds and "redistribute" them within the IRR Program. This will occur on February 17, 2010. The criteria for ranking/selecting the "redistribution" projects is being coordinated with the IRR Coordinating Committee and will be finalized by FHWA and BIA over the next few months.
8. What should Tribes be doing to ensure their projects are "ready to go" as part of the ARRA?
Answer 8: In order for an IRR eligible project to advance using the recovery funds, the project must be included on an FHWA approved TIP. This can be done by amending a current approved IRRTIP to designate what projects and activities will be funded with ARRA funds or by generating a new ARRATIP. Therefore, we strongly encourage Tribes to review their current approved IRRTIP and contact either their BIA Regional Office or FHWA/Federal Land’s IRR Coordinator to begin work as soon as possible in order to fulfill this requirement. Tribes should begin public involvement and determine conformity and other planning process steps that are required for the proposed projects so as to have the projects ready as soon as possible. All Tips either new or amended must be reviewed and approved by BIA-DOT and FHWA. Please note that transit related projects should be coordinated with the relevant transit operating agency as well.
9. Can economic recovery funds be used to replace IRR funds in the first year of the IRRTIP to allow that money to be used on other projects?
Answer 9: Yes, provided that the project on which the funds are to be used has not yet been obligated. In addition, the recovery funds can be used for a project previously scheduled for FY09 IRR Program funding as long as those FY09 IRR Program funds are then used for another eligible transportation project/activities within FY09. Because we are in the final year of SAFETEA-LU, it is imperative that minimal IRR Program funds be left unobligated at the end of FY09.
10. Can FHWA/BIA adopt "Emergency" rules with regard to environmental processing to save time?
Answer 10: No, FHWA cannot adopt emergency procedures. The emergency action procedures referred to in 23 CFR 771.131 only apply to emergency circumstances addressed in the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations 40 CFR 1506.11.
11. What if FHWA or the States are challenged on the cumulative impacts of such a large investment package like this? Are we prepared to address this issue?
Answer 11: The investment package itself cannot be challenged under NEPA, as it is an Act of Congress. However, individual projects are subject to legal provisions and can be challenged like any other project that is outside of the recovery package.
12. Can Tribes use these funds for maintenance?
Answer 12: Yes, in accordance with 25CFR170 and SAFETEA-LU, tribes may use up to 25% of their ARRA funds for eligible and approved maintenance activities. These activities will have to be included in the TIP submitted for approval and will be subject to reporting requirements.
13. These are General Fund dollars, so will Title 23 requirements apply?
Answer 13: Yes, the projects funded under ARRA will be required to follow all normal Title 23 and IRR Program requirements.
14. What will be the eligible activities for the ARRA funds?
Answer 14: Except as noted below, the list of eligible activities will be the same as those for the IRR Program and shown in 25 CFR 170. Planning activities are not eligible nor will they be approved except those directly associated with a specific construction project shown on an approved ARRATIP. Equipment purchases will be considered on a case by case basis and must be submitted to BIA-DOT and FHWA for consideration and approval.
15. Beyond advancing pure construction projects what other types of projects or operational considerations should Tribes be considering?
Answer 15: As previously described, maintenance activities are an eligible use for the ARRA funds as well as operational and safety projects. Project examples include chip seal and dust suppression projects, traffic signal upgrades, traffic monitoring and weigh-in-motion equipment, dynamic message signs, road weather information systems, guardrail replacement, and traffic sign upgrades. Many of these types of projects, activities, and investments require limited or no environmental review time, making them very attractive for quick deployment.
Project Authorization and Contracting
16. What design standards are required for ARRA IRR Projects?
Answer 16: IRR projects funded under ARRA are to be developed and designed in accordance with 25CFR170.
17. How does ARRA affect the P.L. 93-638 process?
Answer 17: This is still being determined and additional information on this topic will be forthcoming.
Project Management and Oversight
18. Are there specific actions that the BIA and Tribes should be considering related to tracking these economic recovery/recovery funded projects in case of audit?
Answer 18: In addition to the normal stewardship and oversight that is applied to the administration of projects, there will be very specific and detailed tracking and reporting requirements related to the funding, projects, and employment on all ARRA funded projects. The forms and reporting processes are currently being developed by FHWA. It will be the responsibility of the BIA and Tribes to provide the required information to FHWA for inclusion in weekly reports to OMB and quarterly reports to Congress. FHWA will work directly with the Tribes under IRR Program Agreements with FHWA to gather the required information.