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Transcript for Bus Program Ladders of Opportunity Initiative Questions and Answers Webinar

July 17, 2014

Question: How many separate proposals may a State DOT submit for rural transit operations?

Answer: Section III B of the NOFA (Proposal Content) indicates that proposers may submit one proposal for each project, or one proposal containing multiple projects.

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Question: If submitting multiple projects in one proposal how does the proposer show the priority among those projects?

Answer: List the priority based on the entity’s evaluation of proposals if it’s available. If not, and you believe the projects have equal strength there should be a summary explaining that that’s the case.

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Question: How does an application for TIGER funds affect this grant application? Does that mean if an entity receives one they won't get the other?

Answer: We coordinate across any open DOT discretionary competitions to see if the same project has already been processed. It does not mean if you’ve received funds under another competition you will not be considered under TIGER.

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Question: Can hyperlinks be included in the text of the supplemental form?

Answer: Yes, hyperlinks are allowed but we ask that you provide as much text as feasible within the supplemental form to avoid using hyperlinks unless it’s absolutely necessary.

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Question: Is preliminary engineering an eligible expense under this NOFA?

Answer: Yes, it is an eligible expense. We want to make sure as much construction is included in the application that is required. We also want to make sure the project is far enough along and meets our criteria for timeliness. We ask that grantee applicants submit proposals that can be obligated within a year of an award and draw down shortly after that period.

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Question: Can an agency submit more than one project for consideration of funding?

Answer: Yes, an agency can submit more than one project for consideration. If this is done, we recommend you tell us your priorities, if you have them.

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Question: When will awards be announced and what timeframe can we expect a notice to proceed for project scheduling purposes?

Answer: We expect to announce these allocations Fall 2014.

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Question: What are the expected selection dates for TIGER and LADDERS?

Answer: You would have to reach out to the Office of the Secretary for the TIGER dates. For the Ladders the expected time will be late Fall of 2014. No set dates have been set.

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Question: In a situation where multiple projects are in one application, is it possible for some projects to get partial funding?

Answer: You should indicate if your projects are scalable and provide the amount. It is possible that projects may be partially funded and if so, then FTA will review the scalable amount information provided by the applicant.

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Question: What kinds of projects would qualify under this program?

Answer: The eligible expenses include the purchase, replacement, or rehabilitation of buses and vans, bus related equipment. The replacement, construction, expansion or rehabilitation of bus-related facilities. The intermodal facilities (must have adjacent connectivity with bus service) and the costs incidental to the acquisition of buses or construction of a facility. Ineligible expenses include operating expenses, preventive maintenance, previous project expenses, mobility management and other expanded capital eligibility items such as security drills or the establishment of a debt service reserve.

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Question: Is there an ability to attach or append materials such as letters of support or supporting maps and graphics?

Answer: Yes. You can attach materials, but you need to ensure you reference them in the supplemental form.

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Question: Is it correct that the only attachments to the application are letters of support, as opposed to supporting maps, graphics, etc.

Answer: No, this is not the case. We ask that you be considerate in terms of the data size (Up to 50MB) of any kind of map or graphic supporting your application. If the data size is too large the capacity may not be allowed to be submitted to the system we have. You may also email Sam Snead directly if you have specific questions about data size of the documents.

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Question: Can In-Kind be used as local match?

Answer: Yes, In-Kind may be used a local match. Please follow the 9030 Urbanized Area Circular (Issued Under SAFETEA-LU) and please contact our regional FTA office to consult them regarding whether it is an eligible In-Kind match.

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Question: For evaluation criteria does each project have to meet the five Ladders of Opportunity Principles?

Answer: In that particular case we ask that the applicant meet the five ladders of opportunity principles to the best of their ability. If certain principles are met while others are not, the strengths to which the principals are met will be considered overall, even if all five ladders of opportunity principles are not met.

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Question: Please clarify the state of readiness of proposed projects. Are projects required to be "shovel ready"?

Answer: Within the NOFA we announced that our goal is for projects to be obligated at least within the first 12 month of award and then for draw down to begin shortly after so that may start on activities for that project. The requirement for these funds is that ultimately they be expended by three plus one year based on our current assumed schedule will most likely be September 30, 2017. Our goal is to have the grantee to expend those funds previous to that time because these are obligate funds.

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Question: Can In-Kind be used for local matching funds?

Answer: Yes. In-Kind match is allowable. Please make sure this is identified in the proposal, include the value of the In-Kind match. As needed, work with your regional office on questions related to valuing real property that may be used as In-Kind match.

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Question: If we have problems with the form, is there a contact person for technical issues?

Answer: Sam Snead is the contact for the applicant proposal form. Grants.gov is the contact for the SF-424 form.

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Question: For requests involving bus replacements, how do you suggest addressing the Initiative's principles regarding proving more transportation choices or enhancing access to work, when the funds would support existing services?

Answer: In this particular case, I understand it’s more of a State of Good Repair project you appear to be submitting. I ask that you try to tie your explanation or the replacement of the buses and the principles as best possible, even if it is replacing buses that are currently supporting an existing service. You of course can enhance an existing service if you have better equipment, better facilities and better vehicles to support those services. There can also be enhancement made to the vehicle that weren’t necessarily available with the previous versions of the vehicle that are now either over their limit in terms of mileage or years.

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Question: Will the use of cash instead of transit development credits make applications more competitive?

Answer: In this particular case if cash is available and the actually money is available for the project this would be a bolstering factor for the application. Transit development credits are available for use; but cash is always a welcome match for these particular projects.

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Question: Is land acquisition for a proposed project an eligible expense assuming that the acquisition process could be completed within prior to the 3-year time limit?

Answer: Yes, but the caveat is that an actual transit capital development has to be occurring at the location in order for that land acquisition to be eligible and proof must be shown within the application submitted.

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Question: If you use cash what supporting documentation do you want to see attached to the grant application?

Answer: In this part case we like to see financial statement or approval of the amount from a local or regional planning board showing that the cash is available for the entity financial statements are ideal as an attachment for this particular match.

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Question: Will the Q & A’s be distributed?

Answer: We will make the information from this Q & A available.

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Question: I expect that travel related to first article inspection on bus will still be eligible in the grant. Is inspection training or certification on inspections for CNG gas tanks an eligible expense?

Answer: This would be considered an eligible expense as long as it is directly related to the capital project being applied for under the Bus Ladders program.

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Question: Is workforce development for bus maintenance staff in the spirit of this program i.e. safety training for new natural gas buses?

Answer: In this particular case it would have to be a natural gas bus procurement and the associated expense would have to be included within the procurement process in order for it to be an eligible expense under this program.

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Question: Does FTA expect a certain number of awards to be made in this round or are there ranges of grants that you expect to fund as far as dollar amounts?

Answer: No, there’s no ceiling or floor. We have not established specific amounts or a specific number of grants to be distributed.

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Question: Is the construction/renovation of a joint development facility used by various entities (including transit) an eligible project as long as the proposal appropriately addresses the Ladders of Opportunity principles?

Answer: In this particular case the facility would have to support bus service. If there’s no bus service available at this particular facility it would not be eligible for the Bus Ladders Opportunity Imitative program.

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Question: Is a bike share system that would support low income individuals accessing transit on both ends of a trip to work be considered eligible for this program.

Answer: Because this a bus and bus facility capital program we would follow the eligibility that is tied to bus services. If these were at various stations or stops that support bus service there is a potential that some of the infrastructure may be eligible. We would recommend you also look at our bike and pedestrian policy in terms of what we can fund within a reasonable distance of a bus facility in terms of the bikes. Please be aware we cannot purchase the bikes themselves because that is an ineligible cost but there might be infrastructure improvement that we could support. Again, it will depend how the project is written. We do have an existing circular FTA 9300 that you can rely on for some more information on eligibility and it would be on how it supports the Ladders principles.

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Question: Can the purchase of the docking stations for the bikes be considered eligible?

Answer: If you review our guidance some of the infrastructure which I consider that to be the docking stations may be eligible. We have a bike and pedestrian policy on our website that you can review and then again the circular lists out which components it might be able to fund.

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Question: Can I use municipal bond money from my local 20% match? And if so is this something I can get my financial director to write the letter?

Answer: Bond revenue is an eligible match. Our circulars list all eligible matches. There’s no limitation from our other programs, so if this has been a match you’ve used in another FTA grant then it is an eligible match on the money as well. You definitely want supporting documentation for the match, whether there’s board approval documents that you can provide or something that indicates the amount that is available to you so that the folks who are reviewing these proposals can determine that the 20% is there.

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Question: The 90% Federal share for project cost that are in compliance with ADA or the Clean air Act; is this as long as the project is compliance with one of those acts you are eligible for the 90% of the Federal share?

Answer: Yes, but I think it’s very important that you realize that 90% is very specific to the equipment that makes you compliant. The 85% would be for example for the entire vehicle that was compliance with the Clean Air Act or ADA.

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Question: How widely defined are the Ladders of Opportunity? Does this initiative support the purchase of vehicles to transport veterans in low income communities to healthcare opportunities?

Answer: Yes, this initiative would support that type of project.

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Question: Are toll credits eligible to count as match?

Answer: Yes, toll credits are an eligible match. Please provide supporting documentation with your application for that particular type of match as well.

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Question: What has to be on the TIP today if not amended by August 4th?

Answer: Please include a time line in which your board will be able to add the project to the TIP within the application. Ideally it will be shortly after a report or close to the award date for the project. Page 32360 in the first column of the federal register talks about what we will need to see for projects that wouldn’t already be in the fiscally constrained TIP and STIP, so obviously we are looking for projects that are consistent with the long range plan potentially already within your list of possible projects. We would want to know the time frame by which locals will approve the project because we can’t award funds in a grant until the project is approved; we can only announce allocations until the project is approved.

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Question: What exactly can be used for the match?

Answer: FTA existing circulars have a long list of non-cash matches that are eligible pursuant OMB guidance that’s out there for federal programs. If you send Sam Snead an email he can send you the link to that guidance. It’s a long list to go over at this time. Whatever the In-Kind is outside of toll credits must directly be related and part of the project, such as an ineligible expense under the program.

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Question: Can part of the project be used for rehabilitation of the pavement and reconstruction of the street?

Answer: We would need to see the proposal or talk more to ensure its eligibility for transit and not another mode or if the local area should be funding this project. We would have to see how it is directly tied to the buses.

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Question: If a community is interested in building transit corridors and developing bus lanes with enhanced signalization and Q-jumpers would this be something that this particular opportunity could support?

Answer: It would have to be directly related to a bus project. We want to assure the application is not funding for street reconstruction or street repaving. Although what you mentioned is feasible within the project I want to refer you to the 9030 & 9300 circular since these are safety funds and to make sure the expenses are eligible.

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Question: Are bike shelters considered under By America if we could verify all the products were manufactured in the US?

Answer: In this particular case it would have to meet all the by America requirements and also have a direct connection to a bus facility.

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Question: Is there a page limit with the back-up material for the grant application?

Answer: There is not an established page limit but we ask that if you have documents that include a great amount of graphics that you make sure the data limit isn’t too high. I will speak with our contractor to confirm the data limit. When submitting your documents please consider that the applications are reviewed in a short period of time.

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Question: The applications are due on Aug. 4, 2014. When you anticipate that the announcements would be made regarding projects that FTA selects as a part of this NOFA?

Answer: Fall 2014.

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Question: Would it be better to process large files in a hyper link in the actual application and include a certain page from the supporting attachment?

Answer: Yes if a particular page is represented of the line item(s). Also include a cover page indicating what type of document it is so there’s no confusion.

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Question: Are the RFP expense on new buses an allowable expense on the grant?

Answer: Project administrative costs are eligible within reason and directly related to the capital project.

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Question: Would procurement of a site to construct your own facility on be an allowable expense?

Answer: If the request is through this program to purchase land there will be a need to demonstrate how the construction cost will be covered, otherwise it may not rat well without this information. We are looking for complete projects to be implemented. Real property is an eligible expense along with construction costs to make improvements.

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Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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