Competitive Highway Bridge Program
CHBP New Questions and Answers (Last Updated January 28, 2020)
Q1. When must I obligate these funds by?
A1. By law, this funding must be obligated by September 30, 2021.
Q2. When must I expend these funds by?
A2. Per 2 CFR 200.343, funds should be expended within 90 days of the end of the date of the period of performance of the award in the project agreement and no later than by September 30, 2026 per the period of availability of the funds.
Q3. If funding is allocated in FFY2020, must my State obligate this funding by September 30, 2020?
A3. No. While awards may be planned for allocation as early as Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2020, this funding must be obligated by September 30, 2021 (close of FFY2021). As these funds are “Exempt from Limitation” in FMIS, their placement on the W10A will fall under the “Other Allocated section on the FMISW10A” and not be subject to either the State’s annual formula obligation limitation or special obligation limitation.
In support of the project and financial management principles in the FHWA Project Funds Management Guide for State Grants, updated May 2018, by the FHWA Offices of the CFO and Infrastructure (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cfo/projfundsmgt.cfm) (see below), the Office of Infrastructure (HIF) will only allocate funding to those recipients who are “ready to proceed…with the project(s).” Therefore, HIF will be in communication with each awarded State before allocating funding.
“Each project, or phase of a project, should be supported by information demonstrating that it is ready to advance, such as inclusion in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), project design schedule, contract letting schedule, etc. Division offices should only authorize the work that is “ready to proceed,” which, it is recommended, typically anticipates the State DOT issuing a request for proposals, qualifications, and/or bids within 90 days. Authorizing a phase of a project before it is ready to advance is a significant cause of project inactivity.”
Q4. I noticed these funds are General Fund appropriations and not Title 23 contract authority funding. As such, are there different requirements for me and my State when managing this funding?
A4: While the source of funding is derived from General Fund Appropriations and not from the Highway Trust Fund, because the funding is awarded and administered by the Federal Highway Administration, these funds follow all Title 23 requirements when obligating and expending the funds as if apportioned under Chapter 1 of Title 23.
Q5. Are these funds required to be accounted for in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)?
A5. Yes. The project must be included as a bundled project in the STIP and TIP, as applicable, before project is authorized.
Q6. When multiple bridges are bundled, do they all need to be evaluated and covered under one NEPA document or can they be done as individual documents?
A6. Multiple bridges that are bundled can be covered under one NEPA document or be done as individual documents.
Q7. What are my options for obligating this funding my State received?
A7. This funding must be obligated in the FHWA Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS) via the Z170 program code for eligible phases of work to include preliminary engineering (PE), rights-of-way (ROW) and construction (CON).
However, when authorizing the CON phase of a project(s), these funds may only be obligated with FMIS Improvement Type codes “10 – Bridge Replacement” and “13 – Bridge Rehabilitation.” No other type of activity is eligible for this funding in the CON phase. If the application specifies replacement or rehabilitation, the improvement type should match accordingly.
Q8. When applicable to a project(s), my State usually enters the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) Structure Number(s) for the relevant structure in FMIS. Is this a requirement when obligating this awarded funding?
A8. Yes. In support of accounting for these funds, the NBI structure number must be entered in FMIS for each bridge in a State’s bundle. Additionally, in order to be considered eligible, each structure number and improvement type code must match with what was agreed upon in the State’s original funding application.
Q9. What is the Federal participating pro rata, or share, for these funds?
A9. These funds are to be obligated in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 120, typically 80% Federal share, with the 20% non-Federal share , as well as sliding scale.
Q10. Can bridge or toll credits be used for the match?
A10. Yes, bridge or toll credits earned in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 133(f)(3) or 23 U.S.C. 120(i) may be used for the CHBP match. If bridge or toll credit is proposed as part of the financing proposal, States may fund the credit from either NHPP or STBG funds (see Question 15). If a State proposes to use NHPP or STBG funds in addition to the amount needed for application as credit with CHBP funds, then the funds for the credit must be from the same funding category. Please refer to FHWA’s memorandum, “Federal-aid Guidance Non-Federal Matching Requirements,” dated May 15, 2019, for the full list of eligible matching options.
Q11. Can my State authorize a CHBP project(s) using the Advance Construction (AC) innovative financing mechanism?
A11. While AC is an allowable authorization option to set the Federal authorization date in FMIS after which all eligible work can be considered for FHWA reimbursement, please be aware that this allocated funding must be obligated by September 30, 2021. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the awardees to ensure any/all AC authorized projects are converted to obligations prior to this date, if AC is utilized.
Q12. Generally, when FHWA awards allocated funding to a State for multiple project scopes it requires that costs be separated and accounted by each unique project title/scope. Is that the case with these funds?
A12. No. Unlike other awards of allocated funding, the specific award of these funds by FHWA was based on the condition that bridges be “bundled” together and awarded (to a contractor, etc.) as a single contract. As such, FHWA assumes that there will be one Federal-aid project agreement established in a State or territory for each “bridge bundle” awarded to your State for the construction portion of the project. The contractor and/or the State DOT project manager must assure that all project costs in the bundle are eligible in accordance with the award.
Q13. My State establishes individual Federal-aid project agreements in FMIS by phase of work to include PE, ROW and CON. In Q&A #12 you indicated that a single Federal-aid project agreement should be established to authorize work. Please elaborate.
A13. For those States which authorize individual Federal-aid project agreements in FHWA’s FMIS by phase of work (such as PE, ROW, and CON), it is expected that there be no more than three (3) separate Federal-aid projects authorized for each bridge “bundle” awarded to that State in this example. This means, even if a State’s awarded “bundle” has under it twenty (20) separate bridges, we would expect to see no more than three (3) separate Federal-aid projects authorized – one (1) for PE; one (1) for ROW and one (1) for CON if all phases of work are, in fact, needed for the project. Based on State practices, additional phases of work could be established beyond the three in the example above, such as for Utility and Design.
Q14. A contractor in my State received a contract to begin work on my bridge “bundle” of projects, as well as some other bridge work across the State. Can we obligate the other, title 23 eligible work awarded to the contractor under the same Federal-aid grant agreement(s) that will be established for my State’s bridge “bundle?”
A14. Yes, a State may include additional work outside of the scope of the grant program project. However, the State is required to ensure that there are necessary controls in place to segregate the costs between the grant program projects and portions of the project not covered by the grant program. They should also identify non-participating costs/bridges in the project agreement to be clear what is and is not included. These additional items cannot be used as the local match.
Q15. My State’s application that was awarded was composed of multiple bundled projects. Can these bundled projects be authorized in one project in FMIS?
A15. No. If the application shows multiple bundles, there should be multiple projects authorized in FMIS. Based on the application, each project in FMIS should match with the appropriate bridges in a project bundle.
Q16. My State received a bundle with multiple individual bridges specified under the umbrella of the bundle. Can I shift costs between bridges in the bundle if/when costs are overrun on some individual bridges and underrun on others in the bundle?
A16. A State can shift funds within an approved bundle for the selected individual bridges in that bundle. For a State with multiple awards, it should be clear which projects are associated with which awards. With multiple bundles, the CHBP funding amount cannot exceed the amount associated with each bundle in the application. If costs are expected to vary from the application and award, the State is encouraged to consult with their Division office and HIF.
New bridges cannot be added to any of the selected project scopes. Also, new bridges cannot substitute any bridges identified in the application.
Q17. As a follow-up to Q&A #16, if my State has remaining funds on its bridge bundle project(s), what are the next steps with regard to the unexpended balance?
A17. As is the case with other FHWA allocated funding, which is discretionary in nature and awards may only be used for a specific project selected by the Secretary, divisions must notify HIF when their eligible project(s) are completed and there is an unexpended balance of CHBP funds. Upon notification, the funds must be deobligated and HIF will issue a deallocation notice, removing the unobligated balance from the State’s account balances.
Note: If the applicant is no longer perusing the project, or proposes to change the project scope due to funding amounts, please inform HIF as soon as practicable before taking any action.
Q18. As a follow-up to Q&A #16, if my State’s cost estimate has changed and the project is overrun based on the amount of CHBP funding awarded, what are my State’s options for funding the additional work under the projects’ original scope?
A18. Legislation restricts the funds to have the same financial characteristics, including the same funding category and Federal share. This limits recipients from supplementing CHBP funding with other funds. In order to harmonize the CHBP funds with other Title 23 funds, only one (1) other type of Federal-aid formula funding may be used to supplement CHBP funds. The two (2) eligible types of formula funding that could supplement CHBP awards, if needed, are National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) and Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG). Either NHPP or STBG funds may be used for bridge projects on a Federal-aid highway. However, only STBG funds may be used for bridge projects off a Federal-aid highway. Only one of these funds can be associated with the CHBP funds per project bundle.
Q19. As a follow-up to Q&A #18, if my State’s cost estimate has changed toward the end of the project(s)’ life, and project costs come in under the obligation of CHBP and other formula funding (STBG or NHPP), which funding should I deobligate first?
A19. For those bridge bundle projects which supplement CHBP funding with formula funding of either NHPP or STBG, when/if project costs are underrun, States should deobligate their formula funding first. The rationale is that most awards did not fully fund projects to the requested amounts in States’ applications. Therefore, when formula funds are obligated to supplement the CHBP award, it is intended that all CHBP funding is expended first, freeing up the more flexible formula funding for other State transportation uses, when/if available at the end of a project(s)’ life. If the project is approaching September 30, 2026, in that instance the State should deobligate CHBP funding first, as those funds will expire after that date and no longer be available.
Q20. Due to the limited CHBP award amount, if my State decides to use State or local (non-Federal) funding to fund preliminary engineering (PE) activities, including NEPA, is it acceptable for my State to start that work prior to finalizing the scope of work and signing an agreement, since they will no longer be part of the award-funded portions of the project?
A20. Any State, or its subrecipients (i.e. local public agencies), may fund preliminary engineering (PE) with their own funding. Accordingly, Federal-aid requirements only apply to the phases of work funded with Federal funds.
If a State funds PE with State or local funds (non-Federal), while it is not required to follow any Title 23 requirements given there will be no Federal authorization to participate in this phase of work. However, if a State wants to use PE costs as innovative financing tool, or soft match, to the CON as a credit, then all Title 23 requirements apply. Additionally, if the State or its subrecipient believes that there may be underrun in CON and could/would have the potential to fund any additional PE with remaining funds, it would not be eligible, as if even $1 of Fed. funding is obligated on a Federal-aid project, all Title 23 rules apply.
Notwithstanding If the State or its subrecipient funds rights-of-way (ROW) work with non-Federal funding, compliance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act is required.
As this may indicate a “change in scope” from the original funding application, when the allocation request is provided to the HIF, it must note these additional project details.
Q21. When will the funds be available in FMIS? And when will we receive allocation memo? What is the lead time from when the State is ready to proceed to allocation memo? 30 days or less?
A21. Once the State is “ready to proceed” with the project (refer to Q&A #3 for guidelines on readiness), the awarded State will contact HIF to allocate the funds with details of the project and the phase they want to move forward with at the time. Then, HIF will issue an allocation memo and the funds will be available in FMIS shortly thereafter. It is anticipated this process normally would not take more than 30 days. If the State needs to accelerate the project, they should consider using an AC authorization while waiting for the allocation to be processed.
Q22. Does the State DOT need to execute a grant agreement, similar to a BUILD/TIGER grant agreement, in order to receive CHBP funds?
A22. No. CHBP funds are disbursed through FHWA, therefore grant agreements that are typical for the BUILD/TIGER grant programs are not required. The CHBP follows the typical Federal-aid project processes in FMIS after funds have been allocated with allocation memos. See the previous question.
Q23. Can separate allocation memos be issued for PE, ROW and CON at different times if need be? In addition, can we request funds as they are needed for individual authorizations and have multiple allocations memos issued for multiple bundles that are authorized in separate lettings?
A23. Yes. Individual allocation memos can be issued for each project bundle, each phase of the project bundle (PE, ROW, CON) or multiple bundle projects whenever the projects are ready to proceed.
As a program funds internal control measure, HIF plans to send quarterly program funding e-mail inquiries/updates to awardee States to address status of allocation (by HIF) and obligation (by States).
Q24. Can we use Bridge Credits from Off-System Bridges?
A24. Yes, bridge credits can be used from off-system bridges towards the non-Federal share (match) of bridges eligible under STBG program. Note that if additional Federal funds are used to supplement the cost of the project, only STBG funds are eligible.
Q25. What will be the reporting requirements for the project once under construction?
A25. There are no specific reporting requirements for CHBP funded projects from States and division offices to HIF. Typical stewardship and oversight agreements for each State in administering these projects would be followed.
However, as addressed in Q&A #23, As a program funds internal control measure, HIF plans to send quarterly program funding e-mail inquiries/updates to awardee States to address status of allocation (by HIF) and obligation (by States).
Q26. Can you provide additional guidance on how/where we should consistently document the structure numbers if we were bundling multiple bridge projects, in a single FMIS project? While you indicate that “Structure Numbers and Improvement Types must match,” how do States and Divisions document this?
A26. In FMIS, if a State authorizes PE for its bundled project, with one (1) funding line of Z170, the “Statewide” location detail line may be selected so that GIS information does not need to be added to separate detailed design costs.
However, for eligible construction activities, States should input each related structure number for a detail line (States can refer to pages 68-70 of the FMIS User Training Manual). Since “10 – Bridge Replacement” and “13 – Bridge Rehabilitation” are the only types of activity eligible for this funding, structure numbers should be entered for each eligible bridge in the bundle.