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Rail Law Alert – FRA Notice of Funding Opportunity for PTC Implementation

FRA Offers Funding for PTC Implementation

On May 18, 2018, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in the Federal Register announcing $250 million in funding for eligible positive train control (PTC) system projects. Applicants are required to provide local matching funds, and FRA will give preference to projects proposing a federal match of less than 50% of total project costs. The maximum allowable federal match is 80%. The NOFO notifies potential applicants, including state and local public agencies, railroads, and other entities, of the eligibility criteria and application process for obtaining funding for PTC implementation through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. Applicants have until 5pm (EDT) Monday, July 2, 2018, to submit their applications online through www.grants.gov.

FRA is conducting a webinar on June 4, from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm (EDT) for FRA officials to provide information about the NOFO. Those interested in participating may register here.

Funding Eligibility:

  • Eligible applicants include any state, group of states, political subdivision of a state or states, and any public agency or publicly chartered authority established by one or more states is eligible to apply for funding. Other eligible entities include Amtrak, freight rail carriers, rail equipment manufacturers, certain research institutions, and rail labor organizations.
  • Eligible projects must deploy PTC systems technology for intercity passenger rail, freight rail, and/or commuter rail transportation and must exhibit independent utility when compete.
  • Eligible project components include back office systems; wayside, communications and onboard hardware equipment; software; equipment installation; spectrum; PTC testing and training; and interoperability.
  • Post-implementation maintenance and operation expenses are ineligible.

Selection Process and Anouncement:

The FRA will make selections according to a three-stage process:

  • First, FRA will review applications for satisfaction of the eligibility requirements and for completeness according to the form and content requirements provided in the NOFO. The FRA will also consider an applicant’s past performance in developing and delivering similar projects.
  • Next, FRA subject expert staff will evaluate applications based on evaluation criteria contained in the NOFO, including the project benefits and the project’s technical merit
  • Finally, the Administrator will make selections based on selection criteria contained in the NOFO, which includes preference for projects that require 50 percent or less federal funding of the overall budget, and projects in which federal funding will be leveraged to maximize the benefit-cost analysis of the project.

The selection criteria also include consideration of key DOT objectives, including supporting national and regional economic vitality, promoting innovation, and applicant accountability.

The NOFO does not provide a date for announcement of awards. FRA will announce the awards by press release, followed by direct contact with successful applicants. Authorization to proceed with the project will not begin until the parties sign a grant agreement or cooperative agreement.

Funding Administration and Allocation:

The FRA will administer approved intercity passenger rail and freight rail transportation projects, while administration of commuter rail projects will be transferred to the Federal Transit Administration. Funding will be awarded through grant agreements or cooperative agreements with FRA or FTA.

There are no predetermined minimum or maximum dollar thresholds for awards, and there are no limits on the number of projects for which an entity may apply to be funded. However, FRA and DOT retain the discretion to award grants that are less than the amount requested. Of the $250 million total allocated, $62.5 million of the funds announced in the NOFO will be reserved for projects that are primarily located in rural (non-urbanized) areas.

Application Form and Content:

The NOFO sets out detailed instructions for the content and form of applications, which must include a project narrative, statement of work, benefit-cost analysis, and budget details. The project narrative component must not exceed 25 pages, with supporting documentation submitted via website links if possible. Confidential business information must be marked as indicated in the NOFO.

Submission Instructions:

Applicants must submit applications via www.grants.gov. Submission on www.grants.gov requires prior online registration. In order to register, applicants will also need to obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) and register with the government’s SAM database at www.SAM.gov. Because the registration process may take several weeks to complete, FRA recommends in the NOFO that applicants initiate the registration process as soon as possible, and plan to submit their applications well ahead of the deadline for submissions. The NOFO is clear that applications that are submitted late for any reason, including due to registration- or technology-related issues, will not be considered.

Please contact Chuck Spitlunik or Allison Fultz if you have any questions about the Notice.