Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
A1. Can an agency other than a State transportation agency apply directly for funding?
Yes. The FHWA considers that in most States, either the State transportation agency or some agency with authority above the State transportation agency will be responsible for all grant applications in that State. However, if this not possible (e.g., the State police agency has a project and the State constitution prohibits the State police agency from being a grant subrecipient), special arrangements will be made on a case by case basis. However, an overall State priority will have to be assigned to each grant application. Additionally, if a grant is to be made to other than a State transportation agency, the FHWA will not be able to use the project agreement mechanism allowed by Title 23 U.S.C. Section 106. Instead, the grantee would have to follow the DOT grant rules and, as appropriate, the OMB circulars linked at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/corbor/index.html
In addition, irrespective of which agency is the grantee, if the project involves an improvement which will require maintenance, the State transportation agency would have to comply with provisions of Title 23 U.S.C. Section 116 regarding maintenance of the project.
A2. Are public transportation improvements eligible for funds from the NCPD or CBI program?
Yes. For example, a feasibility study to be funded by the NCPD program, could consider the economic justification for both a highway and a public transportation alternative. Another example would be a public transit improvement in the border region to be funded under the CBI program if such an improvement met the CBI program selection criteria.
A3. Are rail, air, or water port improvements eligible for funds from the NCPD or CBI program?
Yes. For example, a feasibility study to be funded by the NCPD program could consider the economic justification for elimination of a number of at-grade highway-rail crossings in conjunction with, or in place of, improvement of a highway corridor. Another example would be an improvement of landside access to a railhead, airport or water port in the border region to be funded under the CBI program if such an improvement met the CBI program selection criteria..
A4. Why was 100 km (62 mile) used as a definition of the border region for purposes of CBI program eligibility?
The statute defines 'border region' as, "...the portion of a border State in the vicinity of an international border with Canada or Mexico." Under a binational agreement developed during work establishing the Joint Working Committee for Binational Transportation Planning, a cooperative effort of four U.S. and six Mexican States, the border region was effectively defined as 200 km (124 mile) wide (100 km on each side of the border). This was based on an earlier agreement (Article I(d) of Annex II to the August 14, 1983, Agreement Between the United States of America and the United Mexican States on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment in the Border Area). The purpose of the earlier noted planning effort is similar to the purpose of this portion of the statute. Therefore, the FHWA considers it appropriate that the definition used in implementing the statute should be the same as the definition used in the noted joint planning effort.
A5. This definition excludes improvement of international seaports or airports if they are outside the 100 km limit. Was that the FHWA's intention?
Yes. The FHWA is implementing what it considers to be the clear intent of the statute.
A6. Why did the FHWA construe the phrase 'environmental review' to mean activity performed after the FHWA signed the draft environmental statement?
At the point the FHWA signs the DEIS, there is enough information to enable a formal presentation of environmental information. Subsequent to that point, the following occurs: evaluation of responses to the DEIS; involvement with the public and coordination with state and local officials and resource agencies based on this formal presentation; and, consultations toward decisions regarding selection of a recommended alternative based on the evaluations and coordination. These activities are considered to be 'environmental review' activities for the purpose of the NCPD program. In the event of overriding complexities in the interpretation of the phrase 'environmental review' (e.g., a request to use NCPD funds to support a watershed-based environmental study where a portion of the study is along a corridor and a portion of the study is somewhat distant from that corridor), resolution of such complexities will be on a case by case basis.
A7. Why did the FHWA construe the statutory language on the purpose of the NCPD in determining work eligible for funding?
The FHWA considered that the NCPD statutory language regarding 'purpose' was so much like work eligibility language that such an interpretation seemed reasonable. This has been the FHWA interpretation since the first fact sheet on the program was developed. This fact sheet was widely distributed and there was no objection to this interpretation.
A8. Is detailed design an eligible cost under the NCPD and CBI programs?
Yes. Detailed design that is required for, say construction of highways, is considered an inherent cost of construction for the purpose of both the NCPD and CBI programs. However, as with a construction project, review of the corridor plan must precede an allocation under the NCPD program. In addition, detailed design that is not clearly related to an improvement of some kind would not be eligible.
A9. Is environmental review/documentation an eligible cost under the CBI program?
Yes. Environmental review/documentation that is required for, say construction of highways or other modes, is considered an inherent cost of construction for the purpose of the CBI program.
A10. Is environmental mitigation and enhancement an eligible cost under the NCPD and CBI programs?
Yes. Environmental mitigation and enhancement that is required for, say construction of highways, is considered an inherent cost of construction for the purpose of both the NCPD and CBI programs. However, as with a construction project, review of the corridor plan must precede an allocation under the NCPD program. In addition, environmental mitigation and enhancement that is not clearly related to an improvement of some kind would not be considered eligible for funding under either program unless there were some extraordinarily compelling reason.
A11. How should eligible projects for the NCPD program fit into the environmental process?
There are four types of work activities eligible for funding under the NCPD program which fit into the portion of the environmental process preceding FHWA signature of the draft EIS. They are: feasibility studies; comprehensive corridor planning and design activities; location and routing studies; and, multistate and intrastate coordination for corridors. The FHWA does not require any specific types of EIS related studies to be covered in these four activities. However, it might be reasonable to develop EIS related information regarding: scope, purpose and need in a feasibility study; social and economic factors in comprehensive corridor planning; and environmental factors in location and routing studies. Finally, as stated in the Sept 12, 1998 Federal Register notice, "The FHWA construes the phrase 'environmental review', as used above [the NCPD program] as being the environmental documentation (e.g., EA/FONSI, EIS) process requiring formal interagency review and comment. Thus, even without review of the corridor plan, work needed to produce the pre-draft EIS and to revise the draft would be eligible for support with federal aid under Section 1118 [the NCPD program]. However, work subsequent to FHWA signature of the draft EIS (or equivalent) would not be eligible for such support until review of the corridor plan. Subsequent to such a review, work on a final EIS and any other necessary environmental work would be eligible for funding under this section."
A12. May NCPD or CBI funds support an improvement in Canada or Mexico?
Yes, but to a limited extent. If, for example, an improvement required the installation of a system of sensing and communication devices; and, for that system to function, some of the devices needed to be physically located in Canada or Mexico, then the FHWA would evaluate the grant application for that improvement like any other grant application.
B. Selection Criteria
B1. Why is the FHWA using, as NCPD selection criteria, the NCPD statutory eligibility criteria for considering grants for projects in corridors other than the congressionally established corridors?
This decision was made for three main reasons. The first, was because input from the outreach sessions and multiagency review within the DOT indicated that this was a reasonable interpretation of the statute. The second, was because establishment of criteria not based on statutory language would have required a regulatory action and substantially delayed the first year allocations. The third, was because establishing additional criteria would have been inconsistent with the goal of minimizing paperwork required of grant applicants. However, if the FHWA's analysis of grant applications and comments made in response to the notice indicate a need to modify this interpretation, the FHWA will do so.
B2. Why didn't the FHWA give priority consideration in its selection criteria to projects in corridors identified as future Interstates?
Congress addressed the issue of high priority corridors a number of times: in the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, the 1993 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, the 1995 National Highway Designation Act and the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. In none of those cases did Congress give any priority to future Interstates, other than to earmark funds for specific projects that happened to be in those corridors. Therefore, the FHWA believes Congressional intent is sufficiently satisfied in that applicants are aware of future Interstate designations when they are selecting projects to propose for NCPD program funding.
B3. Can surrogate units be used to provide numerical information to meet the specific numerical criteria in addition to those surrogates specifically mentioned in the notice?
Yes. However, the reason(s) for doing so must be logical.
B4. Would failure to address one or more of the selection criteria automatically result in nonselection?
No. For example, most States will be unable to address selection criterion 4 in the NCPD, because they have no international gateways or affected port of entry. However, the FHWA believes that Congress did not intend to exclude most States from any possibility of selection just because of this fact.
B5. Would failure to document an increase in truck traffic or equivalent automatically result in non selection under the NCPD program?
No. The FHWA notes that some corridors, or portions thereof, contain completed interstates, some contain facilities that require improvement to carry a substantial increase in truck traffic, and some essentially consist of planned facilities. The extent of traffic increase is obviously affected by the type of facility that currently exists. Furthermore, the FHWA recognizes that in some corridors, there are existing barriers to truck traffic (e.g., RR/highway grade crossings, insufficient capacity).
B6. The statutory language indicates that certain specified financial situations are considered as leveraging and that leveraging is a selection criterion. What other situations, not specified by statute, does the FHWA consider as leveraging?
The FHWA considers other financial situations (e.g., 'gap closing' projects that build on previous investments in funding) as leveraging. However, those situations specified by the statute are, all other things being equal, given more weight than those not specified in the statute.
B7. Non-federal funds provided for a project in low income counties are a more significant commitment to that project than if the same proportion of project funds were provided in high income counties. To what extent will the FHWA consider this in the CBI selection criteria?
While giving first consideration to those financial situations specified in the statute, the FHWA will consider leveraging within the context of the economic conditions of the project area.
B8. Suppose a project proposed for funding under the NCPD program would make a positive contribution to safety. How would the FHWA consider that fact in the selection process?
While giving first consideration to those financial situations specified in the statute, the FHWA will also consider the addition of safety benefits to freight mobility benefits as a type of leveraging.
B9. Suppose a project proposed for funding under the NCPD program would demonstrate a promising technology and that such a demonstration would promote the implementation of that technology elsewhere. How would the FHWA consider that fact in the selection process?
While giving first consideration to those financial situations specified in the statute, the FHWA will also consider the benefits of demonstrating promising technology, as a type of leveraging also.
B10. Suppose a project proposed for funding under the CBI program would make a positive contribution to passenger as well as freight transportation. How would the FHWA consider that fact in the selection process?
While giving first consideration to those selection criteria specified in the CBI statutory language, the FHWA will, within the selection process, consider the safety aspects of passenger movement included in the general authority for the CBI program.
B11. Can in-house work, by salaried State and local government employees, who provide information for and coordination of environmental studies, be considered as a type of leveraging, if such work is not included in the non federal share of the project cost?
C. Evaluation Considerations
C1. How will the FHWA evaluate the likelihood of expeditious completion of a useable product or project?
The FHWA will base this evaluation on such factors as previous work on similar projects, reasonableness of the project budget and experience of the grant applicant in achieving multiagency coordination and cooperation.
C2. Will projects that qualify under both the NCPD and CBI programs be automatically selected?
No. Qualification under both programs may, however, result in a higher evaluation than otherwise for eligible projects.
C3. How could evaluation considerations result in elimination from consideration of project which address the selection criteria?
Projects that could be eliminated from further consideration include those with low priority within a State, those that are incompatible with existing plans and programs and those that require funding mechanisms which lack a legal basis (e.g., use of a State Infrastructure Bank for which no legislative authority exists).
C4. If a government agency (e.g., an agency in a State other than the State submitting the grant application) opposes a grant application, would that automatically eliminate that project from being selected?
No. It would depend on the logic and facts behind the opposition. Endorsement of, or opposition by, any given agency or organization to any given project does not guarantee selection or nonselection of a project.
C5. How could a lack of clarity result in not selecting a particular project?
Suppose that project includes development of a number of different planning products, some of which are eligible for funding and some not. If the project budget does not clarify the cost for the eligible vs. ineligible items, that project will not be selected.
C6. What does the phrase 'useable product' mean as that phrase is used in the evaluation considerations?
A useable product should be expected to result in:
a) a meaningful project decision (even if that would be a decision not to construct a particular type of project); However, work that merely results in 'concepts', 'plans', 'partnerships', 'information sharing' or 'strategies' without an understandable link to realistic physical, procedural or operational improvements would not be considered useable within the context of the CBI program. Similarly, except for work for the corridor plan required of NCPD grantees such concept work, etc. would not be considered useable with the context of the NCPD program. Work that is not eligible under the NCPD or CBI programs might, however, be eligible for funding under other Federal-aid programs.
b) an improved operational system;
c) a device or method that can become operational during the life of the project;
d) an improved land use management system; or,
e) an improved landside access to a port, railhead or transit facility as well as physical highway improvements.
C7. Does each State that is part of a multistate project have to give that project the same priority?
No. The FHWA will consider the priority placed on the project by the lead State first and then, will consider, as context, priorities placed on the project by the other States.
C8. When a Governor or other official makes a statement in support or opposition to a project, does the FHWA expect a project specific statement (e.g., exact title and funding in the grant application) or will a more concept based endorsement (e.g., State considers improvement in the corridor to be vital) also be considered in project evaluation?
The FHWA will consider both kinds of statements in project evaluation.
C9. Would the participation of a State in a multistate grant application have any consequences regarding the evaluation and selection of other grant applications in the State?
Yes, but to a very limited extent. If, for example, allocation of funds for a multistate grant application could hypothetically result in such a substantial allocation to one State that 'equity' considerations (see the discussion in Section I of the Federal Register Notice, under the heading, "Selection Criteria Common to all Discretionary Programs") might ensue. The FHWA, however, considers this to be unlikely. Another hypothetical possibility would be if work to be funded under a multistate grant application would duplicate work to be funded under another grant application. The FHWA also considers this to be unlikely.
D. Expectations for Projects
D1. Will the FHWA require proof that the information in the application is correct?
Generally not. The FHWA will ordinarily accept information in the application at face value. For example, a statement such as, "the State projects that two way commercial vehicle ADT and passenger vehicle ADT will increase by w% between year x and year y at point z" will not require supporting data from traffic counts and traffic assignment model data sets. However, supporting data might be required where an FHWA Division office; another State agency or an MPO with knowledge of the information in the grant application; a Federal agency with a permitting, or similar responsibility relevant to the project to be funded; or an agency or other organization with substantial funding responsibility for a portion of the project questions the accuracy of information in the application.
D2. How would a lead State be chosen for a grant application?
The lead State would be determined by direct agreement between affected States, similar to the way a lead State is determined in pooled funds research studies and multistate planning studies. With respect to the mechanism of the agreement, the FHWA expects that, consistent with past practice, the other States will indicate their acceptance of the lead State identification by suitable officials through letter, memo or some other verifiable method. With respect to determining the priority, the FHWA will assume, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, that the priority assigned the multistate project by the lead State is to be used in making the grant selection (also see related question regarding who establishes priorities).
In addition, the FHWA has found, based on past experience, that management of multistate projects is substantially facilitated by establishment of steering and working committees. (This subject is discussed further in the 'FHWA Guidelines for Highway Feasibility Studies' at "http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/corbor/index.html".) Such mechanisms (even if carried out on an interim basis) may be one method of expediting the allocation of the non-Federal share among the participating States. The FHWA does not require, or necessarily expect, that such committees or similar coordination mechanisms will be established at the time of grant application. However, the grant applicant's intention regarding multistate coordination should be specifically stated in the lead State's grant application or cover letter transmitting the application.
D3. What size projects, in dollars and scope, does the FHWA expect to be in grant applications?
The FHWA expects projects to be about the same cost and scope as such projects supported by any other funds. For example, based on experience with a variety of feasibility studies in the past, the FHWA would expect that an ordinary feasibility study for a thousand kilometer facility would cost no more than about $500,000. Other project development products eligible for NCPD funds would likely cost several times this amount. Construction projects and the projects eligible for CBI program funding depend on the type of work involved. For example, high-level long-span bridges are very expensive; adding travel lanes in existing, previously graded right-of-way would be much less expensive.
D4. Will the FHWA expect the grant application to contain quantitative information to address all applicable criteria?
No. For example, it may be difficult or impossible to quantify improved cargo security (a portion of the second of the CBI program selection criteria). However, FHWA expects reasonable efforts to quantify information in the grant application. Where information is subjective, FHWA expects the grant applicant to make reasonable efforts to obtain supporting opinions from subject matter experts.
D5. What kind of coordination information should be in the grant application, in addition to status relative to the STIP and other programs and plan?
If important parts of the work to be funded by a NCPD or CBI program grant is directly tied to an unconventional interagency agreement, understanding or similar device, the grant application or the transmittal of the grant application should state this clearly. For example, if Governors of neighboring States have in place agreements on cost sharing for improvements to a common facility, but only one State is applying for a grant, that information should be contained in the application or the transmittal of the application. The FHWA will presume the existence of more conventional agreements such as that required by 23 CFR 450.310 (Metropolitan planning organization: Agreements). The FHWA does not consider it necessary, at the grant application stage, for all partners in a given project to be cosignatories to a comprehensive memorandum of understanding or similar device. However, there must be reasonable assurance that all the intermodal, intergovernmental and/or interregional partners understand their role in the project. Furthermore, there must be reasonable assurance that such partners fully intend to carry out that role, whether it be coordination, funding, technical assistance or some other function.
D6. What kind of cooperation related information should be in the grant application?
One indicator of cooperation among interested agencies and groups is the extent to which the project budget reflects direct funding support or technical assistance from a variety of agencies or groups. Various demographic, intergovernmental or other characteristics of different States may make it more difficult to achieve such cooperative support or assistance. However, to the extent reasonably possible, such support and assistance is expected to be indicated in grant applications. Additionally, it must be understood, that while non-financial assistance is a welcome demonstration of cooperation, that no 'soft match' provisions are applicable to either the NCPD or CBI programs. One indicator of cooperation is the existence of multiagency and/or multistate steering committees already in place for management of other projects or studies.
D7. Whom does the FHWA expect to establish project priorities?
The FHWA expects most States to identify a lead agency for the purpose of grant applications under both the NCPD and CBI programs. The FHWA will accept, at face value, the priorities established by that agency. If a State does not establish such a lead agency, the FHWA expects the State will develop an alternate method of establishing State priorities and that the State will inform the FHWA accordingly. A State may request the FHWA Division Office to provide assistance.
D8. Does the FHWA expect listing of all mayors affected by a proposed project in the grant application?
No. For proposed projects that are of extensive length (e.g., 1000 km), the grant application can list mayors using some appropriate threshold (e.g., population, status in statutory language describing the corridor). Whether listed or not, the FHWA expects affected local officials with responsibility for transportation to be consulted, as appropriate under 23 U.S.C. 134 and 135.
D9. Does the FHWA expect a listing, as part of the grant application, of all U.S. Representatives who represent in Congressional Districts where the project is located?
Yes. This information may be necessary during the explanation (regarding project selection) the Secretary is to make to quarterly to the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives as noted in Section 1311(b)(2) of the TEA 21 Restoration Act of 98. For projects with numerous U.S. Representatives, it may be convenient to make this listing a separate attachment in the project application. Additionally, the grant application may, at the option of the applicant, also list U.S. Representatives who represent Congressional Districts affected by, but not within the project area.
D10. When should the projects proposed for the NCPD and the CBI be included in STIPs and TIPs.
The FHWA considers that proposed projects could be placed in the "illustrative projects" portion of STIPs and TIPs as soon as reasonably possible. This is, first to support coordination and cooperation and second, because prior to project selection and subsequent FHWA acceptance of a project agreement, regionally significant projects must be placed on the STIP pursuant to 23 CFR 450.216(a)(7).
E. Corridor Management and Development Plan (Corridor Plan)
E1. What would the FHWA consider a 'useable component' of a corridor, as that phrase is used within Section 1118(d) of the statute?
One acceptable definition would be a project of 'independent utility', as that phrase is used in FHWA environmental regulations i.e., 23 CFR 771.111(f). Another acceptable definition would be a project with 'logical termini' as that term is used in those same regulations. Another acceptable definition is a project which 'completes a critical gap' in a facility. However, whatever determination is made regarding whether a project is a 'useable component' does not reduce, in any way, the responsibility to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and related regulations.
E2. How much specific information must be in the corridor plan?
The FHWA does not expect quantification of every cost and benefit, the exact date by which all permits are to be issued, the exact date when construction will begin and end, nor the exact interest rate carried by each debt instrument used to finance the project, etc. Instead, the FHWA expects a reasonable level of detail based on actual planning and project information known at the time the corridor plan is prepared.
E3. Must the corridor plan be consistent with every other plan and program for every part of the corridor?
The corridor plan must be, to the extent possible, substantially consistent with other plans or programs required by statute or regulation, e.g., air quality implementation plans, Statewide transportation plans and programs, Metropolitan transportation plans and programs, municipal zoning master plans. In addition, the corridor plan may substantially incorporate other documents by reference and may be modified as conditions change (with Division office review subsequent to major revisions).
E4. Must the corridor plan be completed to the same level of detail for the entire corridor?
No. The corridor plan need not be completed to the same level of detail for the entire corridor. Some portions of a corridor may not require improvements for many years, and thus, a timetable for completion of permits, reviews and construction for this portion could be very general. Conversely, some portions of a corridor may require early improvement, and the above described timetable would then be more specific.
E5. Will the FHWA issue guidelines for what it considers a 'complete and comprehensive analysis of corridor costs and benefits' as that phrase is used in the statute?
No. However, the State or MPO or subrecipient developing the corridor plan is advised to read the material in the 'FHWA Guidelines for Highway Feasibility Studies' at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/corbor/feastudy.html, with respect to understanding the general nature of corridor improvement costs and benefits.