|There are a number of State and Federal regulatory requirements that apply to this program. Most, if not all, of these requirements (competitive bidding, minority business participation, Davis Bacon Act, prevailing wage rates and Americans with Disabilities Act) can be alien to project sponsors. In most cases, for compliance with environmental regulations during preliminary engineering, it is expected that project sponsors will secure professional assistance (consulting engineers, landscape architects) to assist them in satisfying these requirements and advancing their project. PennDOT District staff should be contacted to assist with the interpretation and application of these requirements. A list of some of these requirements, as well as a brief discussion of each, follows. |
Project sponsors may be governmental entities, school districts or not-for-profit organizations. It is recommended that non-governmental project sponsors strongly consider working through a local or county government entity. Municipalities have experience with federal and state programs. They may have an engineer on retainer or have an approved consultant selection process. Often they can provide additional guidance throughout the process.
Reimbursement Agreement - The project sponsor must execute a standard legal agreement with PennDOT prior to proceeding with any work on the project. Any project costs incurred prior to the execution of a reimbursement agreement for which federal dollars are requested will NOT be eligible for reimbursement. There can be exceptions to this rule for construction-only projects. PennDOT will provide guidance, if requested.
Interest payments made by municipalities or other project sponsors to finance any portion of the project costs are NOT reimbursable.
It must be demonstrated that there is an acceptable implementation strategy for the project. Budget considerations are very important. List itemized activities and the estimated cost of each of these. Include labor costs, supplies and materials and other anticipated costs. An accurate and up-to-date budget will help define the scope of work proposed in your project.
As you develop your estimated budget, talk with PennDOT district staff and other professionals familiar with PennDOT policies and regulations, such as architects, designers, engineers, contractors or other appropriate individuals. The budget must be prepared to demonstrate the most accurate estimated costs. It should be divided into project development phases that include environmental clearance, right-of-way, and construction phases. The budget should identify all sources of funding and how each itemized activity will be funded.
NOTE: PennDOT District offices may charge their services to the project. This is an eligible project expense, and must be accounted for in the project budget. Please discuss this with your PENNDOT District Program Coordinator PRIOR to submitting an application.
Estimated funding for the project that may be from other sources should be identified as other federal funds (not the US DOT), state, local, donated services, in-kind services, volunteer and Youth Conservation Corps. (Even though the preliminary engineering and right-of-way are not funded by enhancement funds, a complete budget is needed to ensure that the applicant has the money to fund these phases).
The Program is a reimbursement program. PennDOT is advancing a “certified invoice” process whereby project sponsors, upon receipt of invoices for project activities, certify their accuracy and immediately forward them to PennDOT. PennDOT will then initiate a procedure to pay the sponsor. Upon receipt of a check from PennDOT (usually 4-6 weeks), the sponsor pays the contractor within ten days after getting reimbursed from PennDOT. By using this process, the project sponsor does not have to use its own funds.
4. Public Involvement
Early and continued public involvement in Program activities will need to be sought to ensure consistency with the requirements for public involvement in the metropolitan and statewide planning regulations and with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) project implementation guidelines. The applicant should contact the appropriate local transportation-planning agency (MPO or RPO). Generally, the public involvement activities handled through the application review and approval process by the MPO and RPO fulfills this requirement.
5. Environmental Clearance
All projects will require an environmental clearance document as part of the preliminary engineering phase of work. The level of effort varies by the type of project, the amount of impacts and the degree of public controversy. The NEPA documentation may be a Categorical Exclusion (CE), Environmental Assessment (EA), or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The level of detail required will be determined based on the nature of the project. Except in unusual circumstances, a project is usually processed as a CE under the NEPA. Preparation of the document can be a cooperative venture: Normally, at the project scoping, a decision will be made on the type of documentation required and which entity will prepare the document. The project sponsor or their consultant will be required to prepare the environmental clearance document.
All applicants must complete the environmental clearance checklist as part of the application process; this serves as an initial screening for environmental clearance.
NOTE: There are project costs associated with obtaining environmental clearance. Please discuss this with your PennDOT District Program Coordinator PRIOR to submitting an application.
6. Project Engineering & Inspection
Projects must follow standard federal/state procedures for all phases of work. Project sponsors should acquire the services of a qualified project manager to oversee the development and implementation of the project (including project inspection) and ensure compliance with all state and federal requirements. This professional may be an architect, landscape architect, or engineer depending upon the nature and scope of the project. The acquisition of consultant services must be in accordance with an acceptable process. In the case of municipally sponsored projects, municipalities may choose to use their municipal engineers with PennDOT approval, or follow an approved consultant selection process. It is important to recognize that the project sponsor, not PennDOT, employs the design and/or construction professionals.
Standards are designed to protect the health and safety of the public. Many projects can fall into areas where traditional federal and state highway standards do not apply. In such instances, sponsors should follow whatever guidance is available that applies to their project. Examples include guidelines prepared by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
8. Right-of-Way Clearance
All right-of-way acquisition must follow federal regulations, including the Uniform Act (Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies of 1970). In particular, property owners must be advised that federal funding is being used to implement the project, and they are entitled to fair market value for their property. The property owner must be informed of this value, as determined by a qualified appraiser. In addition, if the sponsor does not have the authority to acquire property by eminent domain, the property owner must be so advised prior to any offer being made. This requirement does not preclude the voluntary donation of property to the project. Federal funds are not available for land that is already within the public domain, e.g., owned by a municipality; however, such land may be donated to the project as part of the sponsor’s investment. Right-of-way certification will be required for all projects prior to advertising for construction bids.
NOTE: The requirements of the Uniform Act apply to any recent acquisition, regardless if federal funds are used for the purchase. Please contact your PennDOT District Right-of-Way Administrator if you have any questions or need specific guidance.
9. Utility Clearance
All projects must have a utility clearance form (such as PennDOT Form D-9) processed prior to the advertisement for bids. This procedure requires that the sponsor certify that all necessary arrangements have been completed for the relocation of any affected utility. PennDOT personnel will provide assistance with this process.
It will be the responsibility of the project sponsor to secure all necessary permits to design or implement the project. These may involve permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as local municipal permits, PennDOT highway occupancy agreements, etc.
11. Public Utility Commission Involvement
Certain projects may require the involvement of the Public Utility Commission. It will be the responsibility of the project sponsor to contact the Public Utility Commission to secure the necessary actions by that agency.
For projects that require a contractor to perform physical construction or rehabilitation, the sponsor’s professional will assemble the contract proposal package. PennDOT’s District Office will review the Plans, Specifications, and Estimate (PS&E) package. The project sponsor or PENNDOT will manage the bidding as agreed upon at project inception.
Project sponsors may proceed with the construction phase of the project only upon receipt of PennDOT’s written authorization (notice to proceed). This will ensure that all necessary approvals have been secured. An approved contractor must perform construction. All material used in conjunction with the project must meet project specifications and special provisions included in the Plans, Specifications, and Estimate package (See 12. Bidding)
*Attention Applicants: 15% of the estimated construction cost is used for project inspection. The 15% MUST be included in the Total Construction Costs.
14. Cost Increases/Changes in Scope of Work
Each programmed project has been approved for a specific scope of work and funding level based on the information submitted by the project sponsor. All changes in the scope of work for increases in federal funding must have the written approval of PennDOT prior to proceeding with the work.
The project sponsor will be responsible for the maintenance of the project after completion of construction. The project sponsor should develop a plan for maintenance, upkeep and operation of a project constructed with federal funding.
16. Project Cancellation
A project sponsor may, at any time in the project development process, decide to cancel the project and drop out of the program. The project sponsor will be responsible for the reimbursement of all federal funds received as of that date, as well as for PennDOT staff costs incurred as a part of the project. The sponsor will also be responsible for payment of all outstanding invoices to all project contractors.
Between 90 days to one-year after the kickoff meeting, a project review will be undertaken by joint staff (PennDOT and representatives from the local MPO or RPO) to determine if significant progress has been reached. The joint staff will choose the time frame and the specific milestones to be evaluated. Examples include reimbursement agreement, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, plans approved, etc.
During the review, if it is determined that insufficient progress has been made; the applicant will be warned in writing that more time (joint staff decision) will be allowed. If no progress occurs, the project may be deprogrammed.
When a decision to warn the applicant is reached, the MPO or RPO will notify the applicant within 30 days of such a decision. The applicant must respond in writing within 45 to 60 days.
Milestone dates for estimated completion of engineering, ROW acquisition and construction will be included in the application. The applicant will submit periodic reports on the project process, with the frequency of these reports to be determined by joint staffs.