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2005 State Trail Administrators Meeting

Questions and Answers

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Accessibility

Q1. Have the proposed ADA Recreational Rules been adopted? (Mike Martinez, Minnesota)

A1: No, they are not adopted. However, according to the Access Board: "ADA implementing regulations note that if there are no guidelines for a specific facility type or item, designers must use the best information available to ensure broad usability." (although I can't find that statement in the ADAAG). The Outdoor Developed Areas report has been available since September 1999, and, therefore, is the best information available.

Q2. I understand that any pit toilet along the ATV/Snowmobile trail would need to be accessible according to these draft guidelines, or fall within one of the narrow exceptions. (Mike Martinez, Minnesota)

A2. Correct, pit toilets must be accessible, or fall within one of the exceptions.

Q3. I also understand that we are under no obligation to "pave" or otherwise make the ATV/Snowmobile trail completely accessible because it fits one of the broad conditions under 16.1.1. (Mike Martinez, Minnesota)

A3. Correct. The Outdoor Developed Areas states: "However, these guidelines apply only to trails where travel on foot is one of the designated uses for which the trail was created. For example, a trail designated for mountain biking will not be considered a 'pedestrian trail' whether or not pedestrians actually use the trail."

Q4. I understand that these recreational facilities are not adequately covered under approved ADA guidelines, and that a regulator can hold us to the standards of built structures. Did I get it right? (Mike Martinez, Minnesota)

A4. See #1 above.

Q5: What is status of the 1999 Reg Neg Final Report "Recommendations for Accessibility Guidelines: Outdoor Developed Areas" being adopted and passed into law? Does the U.S. Access Board have updated standards for accessibility? (John Schmill, California)

A5. See #1 above, and see the presentation from Janet Zeller, USDA Forest Service. The Access Board's work is still under development. The Forest Service is going ahead with its own rulemaking: see www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/accessibility/.

Project Eligibility

Q: Is there a definition of a trailside/trailhead facility? Is an interpretive center eligible for RTP funding if it is (1) at a trailhead, but (2) does not focus on the trail per se but the environment that the trail serves? (John Schmill, California)

A: Short answer: Yes, there is a definition (see the long answer). An interpretive center may be eligible if is it related to serving the recreational trail users at the location. This question would be a good candidate for your State Trail Advisory Committee to discuss.

Long answer: The National Recreational Trails Advisory Committee developed a definition of a trailside / trailhead facility at its first meeting in December 1992. The Committee discussed the eligibility of a large visitor center: one proposed project would rehabilitate a historic structure for use as a visitor center along a designated National Recreation Trail, but this NRT is a scenic highway, not an on-the-ground recreational trail. Committee members considered this kind of facility to be well beyond the scope and intent of trailside and trailhead facilities. Members agreed the States should develop a priority ranking scheme. Funding should be limited to facilities closely related with a recreational trail. The committee's final definition was:

The terms "trailside and trailhead facilities" mean trail components or associated facilities which serve the purpose and safe use of the recreational trail, as defined by the National Recreational Trails Fund Act (Section 1302 of Pub. L. 102-240, 105 Stat. 1914, 2064), and may include but not be limited to the following:

1. Drainage,
2. Crossings,
3. Stabilization,
4. Parking,
5. Signage,
6. Controls,
7. Shelters, and
8. Water, Sanitary, and Access Facilities.

In discussion, the Committee provided some examples (below). The final list did not include the examples to make sure the examples did not overly restrict eligibility.

1. Drainage: Structures and work related to moving water off, under, and around a trail.
Ditches and grading; culverts, pipes, and drains; stream improvements along a trail.
2. Trail crossing structures.
Bridges; low water crossings; fords; railroad crossings; overpasses; underpasses; culverts for trail passage.
3. Trail stabilization: Structures and work related to keep a trail stable, preventing erosion.
Retaining walls or timbers for bank stabilization; rock, gabions, or vegetation for stream stabilization; plantings for re-vegetation and erosion control.
4. Parking facilities: Structures and work related to parking and unloading vehicles, animals, and trail equipment.
Grading and materials for parking areas; paving for access by persons with disabilities; wheel stops; unloading structures for vehicles or animals.
5. Signs: Constructing and installing signs along trails, at trailheads, or giving direction to trails.
Informational, regulatory, directional, warning, or interpretive signs; bulletin boards or structures to post trailhead information and maps.
6. Water and sanitary facilities.
Drinking fountains; water pumps; water development or facilities for trails in arid regions; permanent vault or composting toilets; portable toilets.
7. Fencing.
Fences or other barriers to control animals, ensure privacy, or provide security; gates; cattle guards; devices to exclude vehicles.
8. Water access: Trailside or trailhead access to rivers, streams, or lakes.
Water trail facilities; launching facilities for human-powered vessels; access to rivers, streams, lakes, or other water features.
9. Urban trail facilities.
Traffic control devices and other facilities for crossing roads, railroads, or utilities; retrofit of bridges for trail use; lighting and other security improvements.

Project Sponsors

Q1. A for-profit cross country ski area located in a State Park containing a trail system applied for a $100,000 RTP grant to help in leasing a Snowcat grooming machine for the only cross country ski area in Nevada. The operation currently has two very old machines and was hoping to upgrade to a newer model to assist in grooming over 160 miles of trail near Lake Tahoe. The FHWA in Nevada did not think this was a benefit to the public, although the owner offered to lower the ticket prices by $1.00 and offer two for one days as well as free child skiing, in effort to benefit the public. Without the grant, he will be forced to either raise the rates significantly or even go out of business with the continuing increase in oil prices. Any discussion? (Cheryl Surface, Nevada)

A1. This question was forwarded to the Nevada Division with this statement: See the RTP guidance at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/guidance/rtp9908_pt2.cfm#rtp18 , and note: Nothing in the RTP legislation prohibits States from making grants to for-profit organizations. If the investment in equipment does not provide a sufficient benefit to the public, then, correct, don't fund it. I think this decision is best made in your office, since you know the Tahoe area a whole lot better than I do.

Q2. Can a Tribal government sponsor an RTP project? Is a State required to allow Tribal governments to sponsor an RTP project? [Current Oregon law does not include Tribal governments as eligible sponsors.] (Roger Skoe, FHWA Oregon)

A2. A Tribal government may sponsor an RTP project. It would use the cost principles in OMB Circular A-87. However, FHWA is researching whether or not there is any requirement that a State must allow a tribal government to sponsor a project. One Bureau of Indian Affairs contact thought it might be considered discrimination, but did not know of any Federal law or regulation that would require a State to allow a tribal government to sponsor a project.

RTP Fund Availability / 40-30-30 Requirements

Q: If the State does not award all of the RTP funds in the fiscal year they are available, (1) how are the unused funds returned to the State? (2) How does the State know the unused funds from previous years are available? (3) Example: if the unused funds are from the 30% dedicated to nonmotorized uses, when the funds are returned, are they divided according to the 30-40-30 split or are they to be used solely for nonmotorized uses? (John Schmill, California)

A: RTP apportioned funds are available for obligation for the current plus 3 fiscal years, that is, they may carry over for up to three fiscal years. For example, FY 1998 funds were available for obligation in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Apportioned funds are not "returned" because they are not taken away. If the funds are not obligated within the fourth fiscal year, they lapse: in this case, "lapse" means the funds disappear as if they never existed. For example, any FY 1998 funds unobligated by September 30, 2001 would have lapsed.

However, the Federal-aid highway program always obligates old funds first: funds obligated in FY 2000 would have used any remaining FY 1998 or 1999 funds prior to obligating FY 2000 funds. This helps keep obligations current. Therefore, your funds remain available as long as your unobligated balance from previous years is less than the apportioned amounts for your current plus 3 previous fiscal years. You must make sure that the amount of unobligated funds does not exceed your current plus 3 previous fiscal years.

The RTP's 40-30-30 requirements affect each State's annual apportionment . A State does not need to meet the 40-30-30 minimums in each fiscal year's obligations , if some funds remain unobligated. Because the RTP funds carry over (they are not taken away and reapportioned), the 40-30-30 requirements don't get recalculated each fiscal year to include carryover amounts. See www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/guidance/rtp9908_pt1.cfm#rtp7 for more information (except note that the waiver provision for the 30% categories no longer exists). [NOTE: this link needs to be updated when the new RTP guidance gets posted.]

To answer the question above: if unobligated funds from one year were all from the nonmotorized category, then those funds must be used for nonmotorized projects. For example, if your State carried over $200,000 that should have been obligated for nonmotorized projects, then that $200,000 must be used for nonmotorized projects: the $200,000 does not get split 40-30-30 in the next year.

Now that the waiver provision has been eliminated, States must meet the 40-30-30 provisions. If, for example, the State falls $100,000 short of meeting the motorized requirement, it must carry over $100,000 to be used for motorized projects.

Also note that the 40-30-30 requirements only apply to Federal funds apportioned through the RTP, not to funds from other sources. The 40-30-30 does not apply to State funds, and does not apply to Federal funds from any other source. For example, if a State transfers funds to the RTP from another Federal-aid source (such as Transportation Enhancements), the State does not have to split these funds 40-30-30. For example, Tennessee transferred TE funds to the RTP for the Cumberland Trail, a hiking trail. This allowed the TE funds to be used for a recreational trail (rather than having a transportation function), and also allowed the Department of Environment and Conservation to administer the funds, rather than the State DOT. However, because these funds were transferred from TE, and were not an RTP apportionment, the State may use the funds for an exclusive hiking trail: it does not need to split the funds 40-30-30.

Conformity Lapse

Q. What does a "lapse" really mean? It is our understanding that a RTP project cannot be programmed into the TIP when there is a conformity lapse. We have a RTP project that cannot be programmed into the TIP because there is a conformity lapse with the TIP, thus the project cannot receive Federal approval and funding. Is there anything the State can do on behalf of the applicant at this point considering that in California, RTP is administered by State Parks and not DOT? Is there anything that FHWA can do on behalf of the applicant? (John Schmill, California)

A. "Lapse" means that the air quality conformity determination for a transportation plan or transportation improvement program (TIP) has expired, and thus there is no currently conforming transportation plan or TIP. [In this case "lapse" does not mean losing funds: it means losing the ability to obligate funds until there is a new conformity determination.]

If a conformity determination is not made according to the required frequency, a conformity lapse occurs. In the case of a conformity lapse, the use of Federal transportation funds is restricted to certain kinds of projects. These include "exempt projects" such as safety projects and certain mass transportation projects, Transportation Control Measures (TCMs) from an approved air quality State Implementation Plan (SIP), and project phases that were authorized by the FHWA/FTA prior to the lapse.

For questions regarding a specific project and conformity, please contact your FHWA Division Office. Note that "bicycle and pedestrian facilities" are exempt from transportation conformity.

Also note: There will also be a conformity lapse if a metropolitan area's transportation plan or TIP is not current. This will hold up all FHWA and FTA funded projects, regardless of whether or not there is an air quality impact.

Project Review

Q. What are other States doing to meet the SHPO requirements? Nevada SHPO wants a cultural survey done on Federal projects, even those that are maintenance of existing trail. (Cheryl Surface, Nevada)

A. This is a discussion topic related to project streamlining.

Allowable Costs

Q. Are RTP expenditures for Trail Crew eligible? I believe we covered this in a past STAM meeting. I recall discussions about spending reasonable or moderate amounts for crew housing and food (in the cases were they are remote). Did we cover this...are costs for seasonal and safety gear allowable? (Susan Moerschel, Delaware)

There is no OMB guideline to specifically answer the question. We must use the "reasonable" test, from OMB Circular A-87, Attachment A, Part C, Item 2: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a087_2004/#attc (see below). Then look at the Selected Items of Cost list (Attachment B: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a087_2004/#attb), but there is nothing specific about safety gear and uniforms. Meals are somewhat covered under #43 Travel costs (allowable), but take caution by also looking under #14 Entertainment (not allowable). The only mention of uniforms is under #30, dealing with homeland security issues. Item #15 is more geared toward high cost equipment. See also #8: Compensation for personal services.

2. Reasonable costs. A cost is reasonable if, in its nature and amount, it does not exceed that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost. The question of reasonableness is particularly important when governmental units or components are predominately federally funded. In determining reasonableness of a given cost, consideration shall be given to:

  1. Whether the cost is of a type generally recognized as ordinary and necessary for the operation of the governmental unit or the performance of the Federal award.
  2. The restraints or requirements imposed by such factors as: sound business practices; arms length bargaining; Federal, State and other laws and regulations; and, terms and conditions of the Federal award.
  3. Market prices for comparable goods or services.
  4. Whether the individuals concerned acted with prudence in the circumstances considering their responsibilities to the governmental unit, its employees, the public at large, and the Federal Government.
  5. Significant deviations from the established practices of the governmental unit which may unjustifiably increase the Federal award's cost.
Updated: 02/12/2014
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