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SAFETEA-LU 1808: CMAQ Evaluation and Assessment Phase II Final Report

Appendix B: CMAQ Phase II Site Visits-Interview Guide

Report cover image: a parking lot of trucks, a BIKE sign, a towtruck behind a broken down car, and children getting on a school bus


USDOT and EPA are conducting a series of site visits this summer to better understand the CMAQ project selection and implementation practices and to document the most effective approaches. This effort will result in a report, as required under SAFETEA-LU, evaluating the CMAQ program.

The following questions are intended as a guide for our series of interviews with your designated State and regional transportation and air quality experts. Federal staff from FHWA, FTA, and EPA will be present for the interviews. The interviews focus on broad questions, with specific questions available as prompts for gathering information about best practices.

Introductory/Background Questions

  1. Please provide contextual information on the nonattainment areas, including:
    1. Population and growth trends.
    2. Travel trends (e.g., VMT growth) and congestion problems (e.g., significance of congestion problems faced).
    3. Type of nonattainment or maintenance area status, and changes in status.
  2. Provide an overview of the organizations involved in funding, planning, implementing and evaluating CMAQ-funded projects. What role does each of these organizations play in the process?

CMAQ Program Objectives

  1. How does the CMAQ program fit into local transportation plans and objectives?
    1. If CMAQ program funding were not available, would similar CMAQ-like projects be undertaken, and what funding sources would be used?
    2. Are there particular types of projects that would not likely be funded without the CMAQ program?
  2. What do you see as the primary goal of your CMAQ program? Are there other objectives addressed by the program that you see as important (e.g., mobility enhancement, community livability)? Please describe.
  3. What role does the CMAQ program play in your area's air quality planning process and conformity requirements for meeting regional air quality goals and/or National standards?
  4. Which types of CMAQ projects have you found to be, or do you believe are, most effective in reducing emissions in the short term and long term? Does your selection process focus on short-term or long-term benefits? Why?
  5. Have PPPs or other innovative financing techniques been used to fund CMAQ activities?

Local CMAQ Program Procedures

  1. Please describe how projects are initiated as candidates for CMAQ funding.
    1. Which agency has the primary responsibility for identifying or soliciting proposals for CMAQ funding? Are other agencies involved?
    2. Is there a structured process for nominating candidates for CMAQ funding? If so, please provide relevant application forms, calls for projects, or other relevant documentation. What are the required elements in the project proposal or application?
    3. What agencies/organizations are eligible to propose projects? Which of these have been most active in proposing projects?
    4. Are any project types encouraged (e.g., diesel retrofits, PPPs)?
    5. Is there a regular cycle for new project proposals annually, or on a less frequent basis (e.g., in association with updates to the metropolitan transportation plan or TIP)?
  2. Please describe how project air quality benefits are analyzed.
    1. Which agency or agencies calculates the emissions benefits (e.g., project sponsor, MPO, State DOT)?
    2. Is guidance on calculating emissions benefits provided to those generating proposals? If so, by whom? What is the nature of this guidance?
    3. To what extent is the State air agency (or regional air quality district) involved in the process?
    4. What techniques are used to estimate travel effects and emission reductions for CMAQ projects? Are models and modeling techniques used? Is this true for all project categories? If not, what other methods are being used? Please describe.
    5. Are National, regional, or local values typically used for calculation of such factors as trip length and average vehicle occupancy?
    6. For what pollutants are emissions benefits calculated (e.g., CO, NOx, VOC, PM 10, PM 2.5, CO2, other)?
    7. Are post-project evaluations conducted for certain types of projects? In which cases? Who collects these data?
    8. Are the air quality impact estimates reviewed as part of the project selection process? Have changes been required or made in project design or selection as a result of air quality evaluations?
    9. Do you have any comments on the quality of analyses? What are the key challenges you see? Have actions been taken to improve the quality of analyses?
    10. Have you made any improvements over the past 5 years in the analysis of CMAQ funds that you would consider a "best practice"?
  3. Please describe how projects are selected for CMAQ funding.
    1. Is the funding for a CMAQ project done separately or as part of the overall TIP funding process?
    2. Is there a formal project selection process? If so, please describe and provide documentation.
    3. To what extent is public input obtained? How is the process transparent to an interested citizen or agency?
    4. Is the procedure largely quantitative in nature (e.g., project rankings, scoring across different criteria) or qualitative?
    5. Who is involved in the selection process (e.g., State DOT, MPO, air agency, EPA, FHWA)? Is there a formal selection committee structure? To what extent are air quality agencies involved?
    6. To what extent are air quality benefits and contribution toward meeting conformity considered in project selection?
    7. To what extent are potential congestion benefits considered in project selection? Are these effects measured, and if so, by which agency?
    8. To what extent is cost-effectiveness considered in project selection? How is cost-effectiveness calculated? What have been your findings regarding project cost-effectiveness?
    9. Have there been any opportunities to pursue innovative or less traditional projects and programs?
    10. To what extent is priority given to diesel retrofits?
    11. To what extent are other project outcomes (e.g., effects on greenhouse gases, economic development, social equity, community livability) considered in project selection? Are these effects related to goals in the metropolitan transportation plan? Are the effects reported or measured? If so, by which agency?
    12. Have you made any improvements over the past few years in the selection process? If so, what are they?
  4. Funding of CMAQ.
    1. Describe the capital programming process for CMAQ projects. How is the decision made to use CMAQ funds versus other Federal or State funds for a specific project?
    2. Are CMAQ projects ever funded using other Federal funding categories or innovative finance tools?
    3. What has been your percentage of programming of CMAQ funds for the past 3 years?
    4. What factors may have affected how much CMAQ funding was programmed?
    5. Do you have any best practices to share in terms of how you program Federal funds including CMAQ?
    6. To what extent is local match considered a factor in funding?
    7. How do you balance the competing needs for funding?
  5. Which agency is responsible for reporting CMAQ project data to FHWA?
    1. What information, if any, is gathered in addition to the reporting data required by FHWA?
    2. In your opinion, is there additional information that should be gathered or reported to FHWA?
    3. Would you recommend any changes in the FHWA reporting process?
  6. Are ex-post-project evaluations (evaluations after the project is complete) undertaken to determine whether desired travel changes, emissions reductions, and other project outcomes have been achieved? (Please provide copies of any such studies or analyses, if available.) If so, how is this information used by local or State agencies? If not, why are such evaluations not undertaken?

CMAQ Program Evaluation

  1. What do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the CMAQ program as it is handled in your region?
  2. What effects, if any, has the program had on agency or interagency decisionmaking at the State or regional level?
  3. If there are things you could change about how the CMAQ program operates in your region, what would they be?

Specific Program/Project Best Practices

  1. Discuss two specific CMAQ projects funded within the past 5 years, as well as what you think may be a best practice for the Nation.
    1. What distinguished this project?
    2. Describe the funding for the project.
    3. How will you track this project as it moves from being programmed on the TIP to implementation?
Updated: 2/24/2012
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