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Frequently Asked Questions

View frequently asked questions on this topic below. Perform a word search to narrow your content or, if this topic has sub-categories, select based on your interest from the drop-down list. Answers to frequently asked questions are provided as guidance.

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No. These funds may only be used to support MAP-21 compliant State Safety Oversight Program activities.

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Construction or building improvements to develop or carry out the SSO program may be allowed. As with all proposed activities, grant applications will need to fully address how the activity supports the SSO program.

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Yes. A rail transit system does not need to receive federal funds to qualify for this program. Eligible rail transit systems must report to the National Transit Database (NTD) to be included in the apportionment and grant funding may only be used for those systems that report to the NTD or intend to report to the NTD. The applicant or the rail transit system that is currently not reporting to the NTD, e.g., those rail transit systems in the engineering or construction phase of development, should submit a letter of intent that the rail transit system at issue will report to NTD and comply with all applicable Federal requirements.

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Yes. FTA encourages SSOA personnel to take training at the rail transit systems they oversee to improve their knowledge of specific practices and technical systems. SSO grant funds cannot be used to benefit the rail transit agency directly, nor can they be used to provide training or anything else exclusively for the benefit of rail transit agency personnel.

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Yes. Web-based information management systems used to develop or carry out the SSO program are allowable expenses.

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No. Aerial tramways, trolleybuses, and bus rapid transit are excluded.

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The focus of this grant program is to strengthen each SSO program so it can achieve the robust requirements set forth in MAP-21. Many of the activities performed today are likely part of the enhanced SSO program required under MAP-21; however, the grant application needs to demonstrate how the federal dollars will enhance existing activities, especially those activities that do not currently meet 49 U.S.C. 5329(e), and eliminate activities that may weaken the program or are expressly prohibited by MAP-21.
For example, if a state’s Certification Work Plan (CWP) identifies a gap or deficiency in the statutory requirement that the state has investigative and enforcement authority, the state should identify program activities to be taken to be meet this MAP-21 requirement. In such a case, the state may propose obtaining the necessary investigative and enforcement authority, e.g., enabling legislation, and what that authority may entail, including taking a more active role in leading independent accident investigations. The state should identify these existing or planned activities to work toward the goal set forth in the CWP. FTA will fund these enhanced activities, such as active, independent accident investigations, and the developmental activities required to achieve that level of investigative and enforcement authority. FTA will not fund activities that do not (or will not) meet the statutory requirements of MAP-21.
Other examples include, but are not limited to the activities that:
Mature their three-year reviews to contain additional audits and inspections, tests, measurements and field observations, and perhaps be directed by a sampling plan.
Implement corrective action plan tracking to include additional verification and follow-up activities.
Provide additional training and even peer exchanges.
Support the SSO program personnel in carrying out these enhanced mandates, through equipment and even vehicles purchases.
To ensure grant coverage for all activities performed in the SSO program, FTA recommends that the SSO agency describes its activities in terms of how they support the SSO program in order to meet the explicit mandates specified in 49 U.S.C. 5329(e). So long as an SSO agency is actively working toward MAP-21 implementation and making enhancements to its existing SSO program, FTA intends that those expenses will be covered through the grant program.

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FTA expects that RTAs will honor their funding obligations to the states that rely upon them until the state is certified or has an approved Certfiication Work Plan (CWP) that permits the state to apply for SSO Formula Grant Program funding.
However, states that currently rely on funding from the RTA must identify an independent funding match for the SSO Formula Grant Program and close out their financial relationships with the RTA prior to grant award. FTA recommends that states dependent upon funding from the RTA make final arrangements regarding the termination of this funding so that it ends no later than the date of the state's grant application to FTA's Regional Office. States will not be eligible for pre-award authority until they terminate funding from the RTA.

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At this time, FTA has not received or approved a CWP.

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The timelines provided in the sample Certification Work Plan (CWP) are examples. Each state should provide its own timeline to indicate when the state and FTA can expect the task identified in the CWP to be completed. In providing a timeline, the state should consider its operating environment, resources, and other circumstances that may affect the state’s timeline. FTA will review the timelines for reasonableness and work with states to determine an appropriate timeline if necessary.

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No. For FY 2013 and FY 2014 SSO grant funds, a state does not need to be certified to receive the apportioned funding. However, if a state is not certified, the state must submit a Certification Work Plan (CWP) and have it approved by FTA before applying for and receiving grant funds. FTA developed a recommended CWP template to support this process.

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No. The SSO rule requires only those states – 30 in total – which operate rail transit systems to establish and certify an SSO Program. The SSO Certification Map identifies those states that are required to establish an SSO Program.

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In the near term, safety risks associated with stop signals need to be evaluated and acted upon at the local level by each rail transit agency and the SSOA that oversees it. With assistance and input from the industry, FTA is developing a Safety Standards Strategic Plan that will help guide FTA’s safety standards program. This plan is intended to address key aspects, such as a data-driven approach to identifying the highest priority areas for developing and adopting transit safety standards.

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Yes, in addition to classroom training, we provide seminars and workshops, supporting resources, guides and standards. See the "resources" tab on this web site for information and links.

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Yes – Proposed General Directive 17-1 applies to all rail transit systems fixed guideway public transportation systems and all State Safety Oversight Agencies that are included in the FTA’s State Safety Oversight Program (49 CFR 659 and 49 CFR 674)

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Each State should work with its Regional Office on the exact terms of the grant, and how it will be administered and amended.

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SSO Formula Grant Program funds may be used to develop or carry out SSO programs under MAP-21. Funds may be used for operational and administrative expenses, including training, travel and equipment. States must follow the guidance provided in the Federal Register notice, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), CWP Template, and other guidance on the SSO Program webpage. While the responses below are intended to clarify common questions about eligible activities, FTA will review each proposed grant activity during the grant application process and will make specific eligibility determinations at that time.
States must comply with 49 C.F.R. Part 18, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments, and 2 C.F.R. Part 225 (PDF). Specific questions should be directed to the appropriate regional office.

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Until a common industry definition for stop signal overruns is established and additional data is collected, it’s difficult to accurately determine their frequency. However, FTA’s review of the data and information submitted by industry in regard to Safety Advisory 16-1 indicate that rail transit agencies experience stop signal overruns with varying frequencies and that most State Safety Oversight Agencies do not actively investigate these events.

Also, the submittals indicate a lack of standard practices, definitions, and requirements to protect against stop signal overruns. For example, some rail transit agencies use a broad based definition for stop signal overruns that includes minor, non-consequential overruns. Other rail transit agencies report only the most significant stop signal overruns that exceed casualty or damage thresholds.

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Match can be calculated by using the Federal Share (award) divided by the percentage of Total Project Cost minus Federal Share. A sample is as follows:
With a match of 20%, and Federal share of 80%, a $250,000 Federal grant:
$250,000 divided by 80% = $312,500
$312,500 minus $250,000 = $62,500
The 20% local share is $62,500.

Answer:

States were required to submit information for FTA’s certification process completed in October 2013. If a State was not certified based upon the information submitted, the CWP is the next step States must take to identify the necessary action(s) to fill these gaps and build a MAP-21-compliant SSO program. The recommendations provided in the October 2013 gap assessment should be incorporated into the CWP.

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