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Frequently Asked Questions

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Answer:

The standard value of passenger time in the HMCE tool is pre-set at $15.58 per hour. Consistent with FEMA and DOT guidance, this represents one half of the average national wage, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The value allows the HMCE tool to evaluate the benefits of avoided service outages or alternative services, as well as the cost of outages associated with project implementation.Applicants have three options for this value:
Use the standard value in the tool of $15.58 per hour, reflecting 50 percent of the national average wage rate.
Adjust the value to account for regional differences, using regional wage information reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Based on an analysis of the September 2013 BLS report “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation &mdash September 2013”, Historical Listings through September 2013, and National Compensation Survey data from 2010-2011 for applicable Census regions and combined statistical areas (CSAs, i.e. adjacent metropolitan areas), comparing regional average wage values to the regional average private industry wages resulted in the following adjustments:
Regional:
New England (CT, RI, MA, ME, NH, VT): $18.38 per hour
Mid-Atlantic (NY, NJ, PA): $17.59 per hour
South-Atlantic (MD, DC, DE, VA, NC, etc.): $14.38 per hour

Combined Statistical Areas
Boston-Worcester-Manchester (RI, MA, NH) CSA: $18.80 per hour
New York-Newark-Bridgeport Mid-Atlantic (NY-NJ-CT) CSA: $19.40 per hour
Philadelphia-Camden-Vineyard (PA-NJ-DE-MD) CSA: $17.86 per hour
Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia (DC-MD-VA-WV) CSA: $18.25 per hour
Adjust the value to account for regional differences as follows: Calculate one half of the average household income for the applicant’s service area, or for all public transportation users in the applicant’s service area, divided by the average household size for the population used.

Regardless of the approach selected, the same value must be used in all proposals submitted by a single applicant. If an applicant intends to use the third option, additional backup documentation is required, including copies of the applicable census tables, the calculations used, and a brief statement of why one of the other two options is not accurate or sufficient for the analysis. Other alternative approaches are not recommended.

Answer:

Given the unique eligibility criteria for the Category 1, 2, or 3 grants, FTA will only permit budget revisions that meet the below criteria with prior FTA approval.
Budget revisions will only be permitted to shift funds from an existing Category 2 Activity Line Item (ALI) when a cost-savings is realized to another existing Category 2 ALI, should there be a cost-overrun or need for additional funds.
Grantees will be required to submit documentation demonstrating the cost savings and cost over-run involved in the budget revision.
If the grantee experiences a cost-savings or determines it no longer needs the funds obligated in other ALIs in its Category 1, 2, and 3 grant, then the excess funds will be deobligated. Funds that are deobligated from the grant may be available for future obligation by the grantee, should the grantee have additional eligible recovery costs that cannot be funded by its pro-rated allocation or its insurance proceeds.

Answer:

Yes. However, apportioned resiliency funds cannot be used for design costs of projects unless the grantee has documented the availability of funding for the entire project, including construction.Additionally, a grantee may not incur capital expenses for local priority resiliency projects until a project has received formal FTA approval granting pre-award authority for the project.

Answer:

It depends. Capital projects may not have a useful life of less than one year. “Resiliency projects” are defined as capital projects designed and built to reduce the vulnerabilities of a public transportation facility or system to future emergencies or major disasters likely to occur in the geographic area in which the public transportation system is located; or to projected changes in development patterns, demographics, or extreme weather or other climate patterns.All resiliency projects must comply with FTA’s useful life requirements for capital assets. FTA’s useful life requirements state that a recipient must reimburse FTA for the remaining useful life of any asset that is disposed of prior to the end of its useful life.Useful life is determined in accordance with the purpose of the project as well as the type of asset acquired. Since the purpose of a resiliency project is to protect other assets, the useful life of a resiliency project is tied to the lesser of the length of time that an asset (or its replacement) needs protection or the standard useful life of the purchased asset. For example, the useful life of a concrete flood barrier around a substation that is projected to be moved in five years is equal to five years. The useful life of movable equipment, such as modular flood barriers, should be determined by the grantee based on guidance in FTA Circular 5010.

Answer:

As the specific purpose of a resiliency project is to add protective features to existing infrastructure to minimize damage from future emergencies or major disasters, a resiliency project typically includes a “substantial functional, location or capacity change." As such, FTA expects project sponsors to ensure such resiliency projects are included or appropriately referenced in the MPO’s metropolitan transportation plan as well as the TIP and STIP prior to incurring costs. Please reference FHWA and FTA’s joint planning rule (23 CFR 450.324) for TIP/STIP requirements. Project sponsors are also reminded they must comply with other applicable pre-award requirements (unless specifically waived), before incurring costs for these projects.While 23 CFR 450.324 contains an exception for "emergency relief projects" that do not involve substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes be included in the TIP/STIP, FTA does not expect resiliency projects, particularly those funded from the local priority resiliency allocations and future competitive resiliency allocations, to qualify for the reason noted above and given most are not "emergency" in nature.However, there may be some integrated resiliency elements or projects specifically tied to a recovery project and funded from a grantee's recovery allocation that do not include "substantial functional, location, or capacity changes". Project sponsors should review the additional planning FAQs for more information about this exception and the process for certifying if a project qualifies. What appropriate funding assumptions can be made to include projects funded under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program (ERP) in a TIP/STIP? Per FHWA/FTA’s joint planning rule, a project must be fully funded from “reasonably anticipated” fund sources to be included in the TIP/STIP. To meet the requirement of anticipated full funding, sponsors of ERP projects must identify all the funding sources for the ERP project including the federal funds that FTA has allocated from the ERP to individual project, any required non-federal match plus any other funds required to meet the total cost of the project. Project sponsors should not assume the availability of ERP funds for a specific project if Congress has not appropriated those funds to the ERP, or if FTA has not specifically allocated ERP funds to the specific project. Projects that have been allocated ERP funds from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act by the Notice of Availability published May 29, 2013 can assume the ERP funds to be “reasonably available” to the project so that the project can be included in the TIP/STIP.However, project sponsors cannot assume that any future funds that have not yet been allocated, particularly those that may be awarded on a competitive basis, are “ reasonably anticipated to be available” until FTA makes an allocation to a project. Once FTA makes an allocation, the project sponsor should work with the MPO and/or State to amend the TIP/STIP to include the ERP project, identifying all federal and other funds required to meet the full cost of the project. Project sponsors are urged to work closely with the MPO and States early to understand and plan for any TIP/STIP amendment procedures for project inclusion once FTA has allocated ERP funds.

Answer:

No, the HMCE analysis should always reflect the total project cost, as the analysis is based on the costs and benefits of the project to society, not to the Federal government. The application should clearly identify both the total project cost and the requested Federal funding amount.

Answer:

No. Local priority resilience funds cannot be used to design projects that will be submitted as part of the competitive process.However, the grantee has the following options for paying for these costs:
FTA will extend pre-award authority for environmental work (to comply with NEPA) and design costs for these activities, permitting them to be eligible for reimbursement OR count towards your local match if the competitive resiliency project is selected.
A grantee can use their FTA formula funds such as the Section 5307 funds to pay for these costs.

Answer:

No. Resilience projects must be designed to reduce damages and losses from extreme weather events and other disasters, not to protect assets from exposure to typical weather patterns and other environmental factors. If a project protects against a disaster, but also provides benefits in typical conditions, the application may present these and other ongoing benefits as reduced operations and maintenance costs over the project’s lifespan.

Answer:

The HMCE tool is designed to accurately interpolate between two or more events with increasing total damages and increasing recurrence intervals (RIs). So for a scenario where a 100-year event causes more damage than a 200-year event; the HMCE tool would not accurately interpolate between the events and would underestimate the actual project benefits. Therefore, to produce accurate results in the HMCE tool, we recommend the following:
If there are only the two known RI events, then input only the 100-year event as a known RI event and omit the 200-year RI event to avoid an undercounting of project benefits and explain your reasoning in the documentation.
If there are three more events including the two known RI events, then input all the events as unknown RI events and let the tool estimate the RIs and group the results.

Answer:

Yes, it can be assumed that certain assets would experience increased utilization during a 100-year storm event; however, data documentation must be provided to support this assumption indicating 1) the historical precedence for the assumption, 2) the estimated level of increased utilization, and 3) the basis for the estimated increase. In general, assumptions based on predicted behavior will require much more stringent documentation than for historic events.

Answer:

Yes, a project that prevents disruptions in the case of a disaster, even if an asset is not damaged, could be eligible. For example, a hurricane might submerge the entrance to a bus depot, thereby affecting service but not damaging the facility.
Regarding nuisance events, please be aware that funding in this program is designed to minimize impacts or prevent damage from infrequent extreme weather events and other disasters, which generally means those with a recurrence interval of 10 years or more. A project that protects assets against exposure to typical weather, but has no benefit in a disaster scenario, is not eligible for resilience funding. However, if a project protects against a disaster, but also provides benefits in typical conditions, the application may present these and other ongoing benefits as reduced operations and maintenance costs over the project’s lifespan.

Answer:

Emergency Relief Operating and Capital Projects that have been validated by FTA for Categories 1-3 do not need to be placed in the TIP/STIP. See February 6, 2012 FRN.Other Emergency Relief projects, including those funded through a pro-rated or future allocation, are subject to the joint FHWA-FTA planning rule (23 CFR 450.324). The joint planning rule requires that capital and non-capital surface transportation projects (or phases of projects) within the boundaries of the metropolitan planning area proposed for funding under 23 U.S.C. and 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 be included in the TIP (and STIP) prior to incurring costs, unless the project qualifies as one of the exceptions listed in the rule. 23 CFR 450.324 provides that emergency relief projects are not required to be included in the TIP (and STIP) except for those involving substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes.To qualify for this exception, the grantee must certify in writing that the emergency relief project does not involve substantial functional, locational or capacity changes and that the local share is available. The Grantee must submit this documentation to FTA in order for the project to be eligible for federal participation. Absent such certification, FTA expects Emergency Relief projects to be included in the TIP/STIP prior to incurring costs. Grantees may petition FTA for a waiver from this requirement by using the FTA docket process outlined in this Q&A document. FTA encourages grantees to work closely with their MPO in determining whether to include emergency relief projects in the TIP, and ultimately in the STIP.Guidance for addressing Resiliency Projects will be forthcoming.

Answer:

Yes, FTA considers accrued costs to have been incurred, and hence are eligible under Category 1. It is our intent that both incurred costs, and incurred and disbursed costs are included in Category 1.

Answer:

No. Category 3 is for work performed by a grantee’s in-house labor force. Work by a grantee's contractor under an existing contract would be Category 2, unless it has been paid to the contractor, in which case it would be Category 1.

Answer:

FTA has determined, in consultation with Council on Environmental Quality, that the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) do not apply for Category 1, 2 or 3 projects as these are activities that were already complete, in process, or committed to as of January 29th. However, FTA has determined that other related environmental statutes, such as Section 106, do not apply to Category 1 expenses, but may apply to Category 2 and 3 expenses. For any questions relating to NEPA, please contact the FTA Regional Office.For any other Sandy-related expenses that will be funded with future allocations (e.g. pro-rated allocation) outside of Categories One, Two, and Three, normal NEPA requirements (and related statutes) apply. It is probable that many recovery projects funded from a prorated or future allocation will fall under FTA’s Emergency Categorical Exclusion (Emergency CE) or another of FTA’s newly revised CEs. Resiliency projects might not fall under one of FTA’s CEs and may require further environmental documentation to be in compliance.

Answer:

FTA prior approval is not needed for force account plans (including justifications for use of force account) for purposes of emergency response and recovery work. Grantees are encouraged to update force account plans as needed for response and recovery projects on which force account labor will be used. For force account work to qualify for an allocation under Category 3, there needs to be evidence that the grantee had budgeted the expense prior to January 29, 2013.For more information about Force Account Plans, please see FTA Circular 5010.1D, "Grant Management Requirements, October 1, 2008, Chapter IV (PDF)."

Answer:

No. The HMCE tool treats expected damages and historic damages in the same manner to estimate project benefits. However, because expected damages and historic damages are determined differently, there are different rules for their use (described below), and the HMCE tool cannot conduct an analysis based on a combination of expected and historic damages.
Historic damages are based on records from actual past disaster events. Since the recurrence intervals (RIs) of historic damage events may be known or unknown, the HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of historic damages with events of known RIs, unknown RIs, or a combination unknown and known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Historic damages must be documented based on damage reports, insurance claims, or other historic records.
Expected damages are based on damages predicted from a theoretical model or engineering analysis. For this reason, expected damages tend to be more difficult to justify than historic damages, and unlike historic damage events, the RIs of expected damage events must be known. The HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of expected damages with one or more events of known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Expected damages must be documented based on complete theoretical damage models, engineering analysis, or applicable historic damages with similar characteristics.

Answer:

If the RFP has been issued, but the contract has not yet been awarded, the project meets the test for eligibility under Category 2.

Answer:

No. Please see the response to the question regarding non-resilience benefits. In accordance with the intent of the program, the HMCE analysis is designed to only assess the resilience benefits of a proposed project, which are those that are realized in the event of a natural disaster.

Answer:

This purpose of this program is to provide funding for projects that make the regional public transportation system more resilient to future extreme weather events and other disasters. Consistent with the evaluation criteria listed in the Notice of Funding Availability, FTA will evaluate proposed projects based entirely on their resilience benefits and the ability of the project sponsor to carry out the project. To the extent that a project may have other incidental benefits, these may only be described to the extent they relate to the stated evaluation criteria. The overall purpose and complete benefits of the project may also be summarized in the project description.

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