Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
A1. Q Will FHWA be able to establish eligibility based on the abbreviated information in the statements of intent?
A In most cases, yes. There may be some statements of intent which do not contain sufficient information to establish eligibility. In these cases, FHWA will request appropriate additional information.
A2. Q Provide an example of a case where additional information will be requested as noted in the previous answer.
A3. Q FHWA has considered as eligible for funding, many projects not on the congressional corridors and some of these have been roads with relatively low ADT. Was this been intentional?
A Yes. FHWA has generally taken a lenient position regarding eligibility consistent with long standing practice throughout the agency.
A4. Q Assuming there will be applications, can an agency other than a State transportation agency apply directly for funding?
A 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 application in that State. However, if this is 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 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/border_planning/corbor/index.cfm.
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.
A5. Q Are public transportation improvements eligible for funds from the NCPD or CBI program?
A 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.
A6. Q Are rail, air, or water port improvements eligible for funds from the NCPD or CBI program?
A 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..
A7. Q Why was 100 km (62 mile) used as a definition of the border region for purposes of CBI program eligibility?
A. 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 and the two federal governments, 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.
A8. Q This definition excludes improvement of international seaports or airports if they are outside the 100 km limit. Was that the FHWA's intention?
A Yes. The FHWA is implementing what it considers to be the clear intent of the statute.
A9. Q Why did the FHWA construe the phrase 'environmental review' to mean activity performed after the FHWA signed the draft environmental statement?
A 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.
A10 Q Why did the FHWA construe the statutory language on the purpose of the NCPD in determining work eligible for funding?
A 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.
A11 Q Is detailed design an eligible cost under the NCPD and CBI programs?
A 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.
A12 Q Is environmental review/documentation an eligible cost under the CBI program?
A 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.
A13 Q Is environmental mitigation and enhancement an eligible cost under the NCPD and CBI programs?
A 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.
A14 Q How should eligible projects for the NCPD program fit into the environmental process?
A 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 (applicable for grants for FY 1999), the Aug 30, 1999 Federal Register notice (applicable for grants for FY 2000) and the June 16, 2000 Federal Register notice (applicable for grants for FY 2001), "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."
A15 Q May NCPD or CBI funds support an improvement in Canada or Mexico?
A Yes, but to a limited extent. If, for example, if an improvement required 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 in the immediate vicinity of the border, then the FHWA would evaluate the grant application for that improvement like any other grant application. However, costs associated with physical improvements not in the immediate vicinity of the border would generally not be eligible unless such costs were incidental compared to the overall project costs.
A16 Q Is it possible for projects for corridors other than those designated by Congress to be awarded a grant?
A Yes. Several grants of this nature were made in both FY 1999 and in FY 2000.
B1 Q Are any major changes in selection criteria anticipated in FY 2002?
B3 Q Why not?
A The NCPD and CBI specific selection criteria are statutory.
Other Q&As will be provided subsequent to solicitation of applications.
Q&As will be provided subsequent to solicitation of applications.
D1 Q Does FHWA expect the same degree of coordination for the statements of intent to apply as for actual applications?
A No. However, those preparing statements of intent to apply should provide reasonable notification of interested parties.
D2 Q Does FHWA expect STIPs and TIPs to be appended to indicate that statements of intent have been submitted?
A No. However, the fact that a statement of intent has been submitted should be brought to the attention of those developing STIPs and TIPs.
Other Q&As will be provided subsequent to solicitation of applications.
E1 Q Should those submitting statements of intent to apply begin the process of developing corridor plans if the projects are those that require such plans?
A Yes. For example, the collection of factual information that is required during general project development should begin if it has not already.
Other Q&As will be provided subsequent to solicitation of applications.
F1. Q TEA-21, Section 1101(a)(9) authorized $140 million for the National Corridor Planning and Development and Coordination Border Infrastructure program. Why have funds available for allocation" been less than the $140 million per fiscal year?
A The annual authorizations are limited to an amount less than the sums authorized for obligations for Federal-aid highway and Highway Safety construction programs because of the requirements in TEA-21, Section 1102 - Obligation Ceiling.
F2. Q The background section of the Federal Register notice indicates that the period of availability for obligation is, the fiscal year for which the funds were authorized plus three fiscal years. Is this also true for the obligation authority discussed later in that section?
A No. Title 23, U.S.C., Section 118 establishes the rules for the "Availability of Funds." However, the rules for "obligation authority" are based on requirements of TEA-21, Section 1102 - Obligation Ceiling. This latter provision states, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law..." and therefore it stands on its own. TEA-21, Section 1102 provides an annual limitation on obligations. The limitation on obligations is established each year near the beginning of the fiscal year and it is only available during that fiscal year.
F3. Q Was it true that funds authorized for some discretionary programs under ISTEA did not have to be obligated each fiscal year?
A Yes. The funds for some discretionary programs were available until expended and they were not subject to obligation limitation. However, because of the language of Section 1102 of TEA-21, this is no longer the case.
F4. Q What is the meaning of the term "obligation" as it is used in these provisions and how is it done?
A An obligation is a commitment made by the FHWA to pay out money. The actual payments are called "outlays." In addition, Title 23, U.S.C., Section 106 describes the point when this commitment occurs in the following language, "The execution of the project agreement shall be deemed a contractual obligation of the Federal Government for the for the payment of the Federal share of the cost of the project." The project agreement contains the plans, specifications and estimates which describe the work that is to be done as part of a project.
F5. Q If obligation authority is not used by the end of the fiscal year, does the unused authority lapse?
A Yes, because it is only available during a specified time period. In order to prevent the lapse of unused obligation authority, the requirement of TEA-21, Section 1102(d), provides for the redistribution of released unobligated obligation authority distributed by formula (apportioned) and non-formula (allocated) funds annually, typically in August.
F6. Q If a specific discretionary project encounters an unexpected problem, such as, a lawsuit, a discovery of a hazmat site, a change in design assumptions, and the funds will not be obligated within a fiscal year, can the obligation authority associated be used in another fiscal year?
A No. For example, the FHWA annually establishes a process based on the requirements of TEA-21, Section 1102(d) for a redistribution of obligation authority. As part of this process, the States may release obligation authority and return the authority to the FHWA for redistribution. The authority is withdrawn and the obligation authority is redistributed by formula to States with 'ready to go' projects giving priority to those States with large unobligated balances.
F7. Q If a State has released obligation authority for a discretionary project, can the State get that authority returned during the next fiscal year?
A Section 1102(c) of TEA-21 requires obligation authority to be set aside "off-the-top" of the overall Federal-aid obligation ceiling to cover unobligated balances from allocated programs, e.g., discretionary funds such as this program. As long as future appropriations acts do not alter this policy, such an approach will be available and may be used. However, this does not apply to any funds that are subject to lapse.
F8. Q If new obligation authority was provided for a project and it is determined that it will not be used during that fiscal year, would it reduce accounting problems, if the State used the authority for another project in that fiscal year and fund the discretionary project with formula funds in the next fiscal year?
A No. Although this approach seems practical, typically obligation authority for allocated programs is project specific and may not be used for other purposes.
F9. Q May softmatch credits available under the provisions of Title 23, section 120(j) be applied to a project in which the federal funds come from Sections 1118 and 1119 of TEA-21?
G1 Q Will there be any transfer of funds to the General Services Administration in FY 2002?
A No. The statutory provision allowing this transfer only provides the authority to transfer through FY 2001.
G2 Q Some projects selected for funding under the NCPD/CBI program are projects for which the implementing agency is the General Services Administration (GSA). For such projects, may FHWA transfer funds directly to the General Services?
A No. Payments on Federal-aid projects undertaken by Federal agency are made are governed by section 132 of Title 23. Essentially, the State is the agency with whom the FHWA enters a project agreement and thus becomes the intermediary between the FHWA and the General Services Administration.
G3 Q Why can't the procedures established under section 1119(d) of the TEA-21 which allow the Secretary of Transportation to transfer funds to the Administrator of General Services be used for projects selected under the NCPD/CBI program?
A Funds transferred by the Secretary to GSA under 1119(d) of the TEA-21 lose their identity as Federal-aid at the time of transfer. The funds for projects selected under the NCPD/CBI program are funds for Federal-aid funded projects.
H1. Q The phrase 'commercial vehicle' appears a number of times in Sections 1118 and 1119. Is this term or something like it defined in the CFR?
A Yes. It appears in the new definition can be found in 49 CFR Part 350.105. This section reads as as follows:
Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) means a motor vehicle that has any of the following characteristics:
Similar definitions appear elsewhere (e.g., Section 31101 of Title 49. U.S.C.)
H2. Q How may a State DOT convert ADT for typical vehicle classification counts to commercial vehicle ADT?
A For purposes of FY 2002 applications for the NCPD/CBI program, a State DOT may estimate that the ADT for all vehicles with more than two axles is about the same as the ADT for all commercial vehicles.
I1. Q Does the FHWA wish any information in the statement of intent in addition to that requested in the May 7 Federal Register Notice.
I2. Q Would any specific information in the statement of intent in addition to that requested in the May 7 Federal Register Notice help the project in selection?
A Not at this time.
I3. Q What would be the consequences of adding information in addition to that requested in the May 7 Federal Register Notice?
A Such additional information is not needed or expected. Should it be provided, we do not expect that it would impact later decision (e.g., selection subsequent to full applications). However, the additional information would be part of the public record. As such, if the Secretary of Transportation or a member of Congress requested the 'full' statement of intent, the 'full' statement would be provided. The program office does not know how the Secretary or any given member of Congress would react to such a 'full' statement.
J1. Q: What would the FHWA consider a 'useable component' of a corridor, as that phrase is used within Section 1118(d) of the statute?
A: One acceptable definition would be a project of 'independent utility', as that phrase is used in current FHWA environmental regulations i.e., 23 CFR 771.111(f) or in proposed regulation 23 CFR 1420.105(b)(1) which were published in the Federal Register on May 25, 2000. 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.
J2. Q: How much specific information must be in the corridor plan?
A: 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.
J3. Q: Must the corridor plan be consistent with every other plan and program for every part of the corridor?
A: 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) .
J4. Q: Must the corridor plan be completed to the same level of detail for the entire corridor?
A: 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.
J5. Q: 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?
A: 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/border_planning/corbor/index.cfm, with respect to understanding the general nature of corridor improvement costs and benefits.
J6. Q: Must the corridor improvement be analyzed and evaluated for consistency with planning and analysis of other components of the corridor performed in or for other States through which the corridor passes?
A: No. However, the extent to which the planning and analysis for the corridor improvement can be shown to be compatible with planning, analysis and development done for other segments of the corridor, within the State or in other States, would add to the overall strength of the proposal. Examples would be the use of compatible economic, traffic and, modal split forecasts in the corridor.