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Reconnecting Communities - Additional Guidance

Reconnecting Communities Pilot Grants Additional Guidance

Project Readiness for Planning Grant and Capital Construction Grant Applicants

For more information on Project Readiness as part of DOT’s evaluation of grant applications, please see Section E.1.ii of the NOFO. 

Technical capacity of the applicant and completeness of project financing factor into determining project readiness for all RCP grants. Technical capacity assessment includes previous work with federal agencies, experience with compliance and civil rights, and the size and resources of the organization. Lack of experience administering federal grants will not disqualify an otherwise strong application. 

To demonstrate financial completeness, the application should include a full budget detailing the requested RCP grant, non-RCP federal funding, and local match funding with documentation of funding commitments and sources. The application should also include a plan to address cost overruns. There is no set template for the budget, but applicants looking for initial ideas may consult the FTA Cost Estimation Resources Page which uses the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide. They may also reference the FRA Project Budget Template. These examples are only provided as guidance, and additional information may be required to provide a complete financial picture including funding sources and contingency planning. 

Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance for Capital Construction Grant Applicants  

Applicants for an RCP Capital Construction Grant should submit the results of a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) for their proposed project. Planning Grant applicants do not need to submit a BCA.  

DOT provides general information addressing What is a Benefit-Cost Analysis? on the DOT Navigator

BCA is a systematic process for identifying, quantifying, and comparing expected benefits and costs of a potential investment. Many benefits of RCP program projects may be difficult to quantify, but all benefits, quantified or unquantified, should be explained as well as possible and clearly tied to the expected outcomes of the project. These claimed benefits should address the users of the facility as well as benefits to the surrounding community. Information from the BCA will be considered by USDOT in awarding grant funding for Capital Construction projects. 

Applicants should consult DOT's Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance for Discretionary Grant Programs when preparing a BCA for an RCP Grant application. This guide contains key information on procedures for conducting benefit-cost analysis, standard monetization values for many benefits, and other useful guidance for preparing a BCA for submission as part of the application.  

In addition, applicants can view online presentations on preparing a BCA with specific examples from previous USDOT discretionary grant application programs:  

  1. Federal Railroad Administration Benefit-Cost Analysis Video;  
  2. BCA for Rural Projects; and  
  3. RAISE Grant BCA webinars.

USDOT will host an RCP-specific webinar on BCA, please visit the RCP website to sign up for updates. Applicants who need additional help after consulting this guidance should contact USDOT staff at ReconnectingCommunities@dot.gov.

Environmental Risk Guidance for Capital Construction Grant Applicants

Applicants for Capital Construction Grants will also undergo an Environmental risk Assessment. To be eligible for a Capital Construction Grant, a project must have all necessary feasibility studies and planning activities completed. Projects must be included in state or regional transportation plans such as a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program, Tribal Transportation Improvement Program, Transit Access Management Plan or equivalent, or have convincing evidence in their application that they will be included in the plan by the time of the grant award. An efficient way to show your project is included in the STIP or equivalent is to include the project number or reference to the STIP in your application materials.  

The Environmental Risk review will also analyze the project’s environmental approvals and likelihood of the necessary approval affecting project obligation. 

The application should address project schedule, required approvals, and project risks and mitigation strategies, for example:   

The applicant should demonstrate receipt of State and local approvals on which the project depends.

A project schedule identifying NEPA timeline as well as applicable permits, right-of-way acquisition plans, if applicable, and detailed mitigation plan.  

Information about the NEPA status of the project. If the NEPA process is complete, an applicant should indicate the date of completion, and provide a website link or other reference to the final Categorical Exclusion, Finding of No Significant Impact, Record of Decision, and any other NEPA documents prepared. If the NEPA process is underway, but not complete, the application should identify the Lead Agency for the NEPA review, detail the type of NEPA review underway, where the project is in the process, and indicate the anticipated date of completion of all milestones and of the final NEPA determination. If the last agency action with respect to NEPA documents occurred more than three years before the application date, the applicant should describe why the project has been delayed and include a proposed approach for verifying and, if necessary, updating this material in accordance with applicable NEPA requirements.   

Information on reviews, approvals, and permits by other agencies. An application should indicate whether the proposed project requires reviews or approval actions by other agencies, indicate the status of such actions, and provide detailed information about the status of those reviews or approvals and should demonstrate compliance with any other applicable Federal, State or local requirements, and when such approvals are expected. Applicants should provide a website link or other reference to copies of any reviews, approvals, and permits prepared.  

Environmental studies or other documents, preferably through a website link, that describe in detail known project impacts, and possible mitigation for those impacts.  

A description of discussions with the appropriate DOT operating administration field or headquarters office regarding the project’s compliance with NEPA and other applicable Federal environmental reviews and approvals.  

A description of public engagement about the project that has occurred, proactively inclusive of historically disadvantaged communities and communities likely to be affected by the project, including details on compliance with environmental justice requirements, access for persons with limited English proficiency and the degree to which public comments and commitments have been integrated into project development and design. 

Applicable projects must comply with NEPA implementing regulations

Last updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2022