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Thriving Communities Program (TCP) Frequently Asked Questions

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Thriving Communities ProgramThis page contains frequently asked questions about the Thriving Communities Program (TCP), with content organized by the:


Overall Program

DOT Thriving Communities Program

What is the Thriving Communities Program?

The Thriving Communities Program (TCP)—established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 (PL-117-103 Division L, Title I)—is designed to provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building support to advance a pipeline of transportation and community revitalization activities that increase mobility, reduce pollution from transportation sources, expand affordable transportation and housing options, improve health outcomes, facilitate efficient land use, preserve or expand jobs, and enhance connections to health care, education, and food security to benefit disadvantaged populations and communities. The TCP will support and build local capacity to improve project acceleration, access to and management of Federal funding, and deployment of local hiring, workforce development and inclusive community engagement practices.

What are the key differences between the DOT Notice of Funding Opportunity and the DOT Letter of Interest?

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is for providers of technical assistance, which may be nonprofits, state or local governments and their agencies, Indian Tribes, philanthropic entities, or other technical assistance providers (including private firms). DOT will fund at least three of these applicants with cooperative agreements of between $3.5 and $6 million for a two-year period of performance.

The Letter of Interest (LOI) is for communities that want to receive technical assistance for a particular geographic area, which may be state, local, or Tribal governments; United States territories; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; transit agencies; or other political subdivisions of state or local governments. Those selected from the LOI will not receive funding but will instead be paired with technical assistance providers who were selected from the NOFO to receive the technical assistance funded by the cooperative agreements.

Can an eligible applicant apply to both the DOT NOFO and the DOT LOI?

Technically, if an applicant meets eligibility criteria for both the NOFO and the LOI, they could apply for both. The key distinction is that the NOFO application is for applicants who want to provide technical assistance to a national cohort of communities, while the LOI is for applicants who want to receive technical assistance to support their community. Applicants for the NOFO should be able and capable of providing technical assistance to a diverse set of communities located across the country, not just within a single state, metropolitan area, Indian Tribe, United States territory, or local jurisdiction.

Can you define the three Communities of Practice: Main Streets, Connected Neighborhoods, and Networked Communities?

The Main Streets Community of Practice is focused on Tribal and rural communities and the interconnected transportation, housing, community, and economic development issues they face. The Complete Neighborhoods Community of Practice is focused on urban and suburban communities located within metropolitan areas working to better coordinate transportation with land use, housing, and economic development. The Networked Communities Community of Practice is focused on those communities located near ports, airports, freight, and rail facilities to address mobility, access, environmental justice, and economic issues including leveraging their proximity to these facilities for wealth-building and economic development opportunities.

Please refer to Section A.2.b of the NOFO for more details on each of the Communities of Practice.

Does the program only support planning activities?

No. While support in planning efforts is one component of possible technical assistance, other forms of technical assistance include assistance with grant applications, project scoping and pre-development activities, and pre-engineering studies, among other technical issues outlined in the NOFO (see Section A.2.b). As applicable, assistance is also provided through project development, project funding and financing, and project delivery.

Other Technical Assistance Programs

How is DOT’s Thriving Communities Program related to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Thriving Communities Program?

The two are separate programs each with its own NOFO. The two programs share a common vision: supporting jurisdictions in designing and deploying their infrastructure investments in ways that support equitable development and benefit residents and businesses. The DOT and HUD technical assistance programs focus on different components in helping jurisdictions use infrastructure investment to create thriving communities and therefore have different eligibility requirements and rating factors.

Being funded through one NOFO does not make an organization ineligible to being funded by the other. HUD will provide funding to technical assistance providers and Capacity Builders to help jurisdictions consider housing and community development needs as part of transportation infrastructure plans (for example, identifying land that is near planned transportation projects and suitable for housing development). There are other differences between the two NOFOs and programs, including eligibility. HUD and DOT will collaborate on the evaluation of applications and the implementation of both programs.

Can an applicant that is eligible to apply for both DOT’s and HUD’s TCP NOFOs apply to both?

Yes. An applicant that is eligible under DOT’s TCP NOFO and is also eligible under HUD’s TCP NOFO are eligible to apply to both.

Is there a benefit to an applicant to apply to both DOT's and HUD's NOFOs? 

The DOT and the HUD TCP NOFOs each provide separate evaluation criteria for rating individual applications for each agency’s NOFOs. There is not a benefit or disincentive to applying to both. DOT’s evaluation criteria include consideration of how applicants will support comprehensive community development that delivers equity, environmental, safety, mobility, housing, and economic benefits; demonstrates partnerships; and demonstrates an approach to working with DOT and other relevant Federal agencies, including identified regional staff, in providing support to communities and leveraging Federal opportunities.

Will an applicant that applies to both DOT’s and HUD’s NOFOs be required to describe how the two programs they are proposing will work together in their applications?

The DOT and the HUD TCP NOFOs each provide separate evaluation criteria for rating individual applications for each agency’s NOFOs. Each application should be prepared with the understanding that these are separate NOFOs and that if an applicant is awarded under one of the agency’s NOFOs that does not mean they will be awarded under the other agency’s NOFO.

Could the recipients of DOT and HUD’s technical assistance be the same entities?

DOT and HUD’s NOFOs provide information about eligible recipients for the technical assistance from each agency. Local governments, other political subdivisions of a state or territory, and Tribal governments are entities that are eligible to apply for technical assistance from both DOT’s and HUD’s TCP NOFOs. DOT also includes state governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies as eligible recipients of technical assistance. Those interested in receiving technical assistance through DOT’s Thriving Communities Program should submit a Letter of Interest.

Will DOT and HUD request that awarded Capacity Builders coordinate their activities for eligible recipients?

The DOT and the HUD programs are separate and distinct from each other but do have a common framework. DOT and HUD coordinated on the design of each of their respective NOFOs and technical assistance programs. This includes discussions of differences, similarities, and areas of potential collaboration for awarded Capacity Builders and the potential collaboration for technical assistance recipients.

How does DOT’s Thriving Communities Program fit into existing Build America Bureau efforts, including the Regional Infrastructure Accelerator program?

The Build America Bureau (Bureau), established at DOT in 2015, works with a wide set of public and private project partners on all types of transportation projects. The Bureau is launching several new technical assistance programs, including the Thriving Communities Program, that supplement existing programs like the Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (RIA). Each has a slightly different focus and types of tools that it provides. The RIA provides funding directly to a regional navigator organization to advance project scoping, development, and assessment of innovative finance tools; while the Thriving Communities Program does not provide direct funding to communities but rather access to technical assistance providers who will provide deep-dive technical assistance, which may include staffing, sub-granting, and other types of direct support.


NOFO FAQs

Eligibility to Apply

What is a Capacity Builder?

A Capacity Builder is an organization funded through TCP to provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building to selected recipient communities. DOT is encouraging applicants to form capacity building teams to provide the scope and diversity of expertise being sought by a variety of communities with different needs and assets, different types of transportation projects, and different geographies.

Who is eligible to apply to provide planning, technical assistance, and capacity building through DOT’s Thriving Communities Program?

Organizations eligible to apply to provide support individually or as part of a team include nonprofit organizations, state or local governments and their agencies, Indian Tribes, philanthropic entities, and other technical assistance providers with a demonstrated capacity to develop and provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building.

Can a private firm, consulting entity, or for-profit company apply to be a Capacity Builder?

Yes, private firms, including consulting firms and for-profit organizations, are considered eligible applicants to the TCP NOFO. Private firms may apply either as the lead applicant or as part of a team. Private firms are eligible under “Other technical assistance providers with a demonstrated capacity to develop and provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building (i.e., private firms or consultants, private academic institutions, CDFIs).”

Can a university apply to be a Capacity Builder?

Yes, academic institutions including universities, colleges, and vocational institutions are eligible entities to apply to the TCP NOFO if they can verify or demonstrate their experience as a “technical assistance provider with a demonstrated capacity to develop and provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building”; are a unit of state or local government; or have tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization.

Does an applicant need to be or include a licensed architect or engineer to apply to be a Capacity Builder?

No, an applicant does not need to be a licensed architect or engineer to apply to be a Capacity Builder.

Can an eligible firm or organization submit more than one application or be on multiple teams within one or more Community of Practice?

Lead Capacity Builder applicants may have their own requirements for exclusivity, but DOT does not preclude eligible firms or organizations from submitting more than one TCP application, or from serving on more than one Capacity Builder team, whether specific to one or multiple Communities of Practice.

Eligible Activities

What are examples of eligible activities for Capacity Builders under the TCP?

The primary focus of support through the TCP is assisting individual communities—recipients include government agencies and their community partner organizations—to successfully advance a program of projects identified through meaningful public involvement that deliver a broad set of transportation, climate, equity, housing, economic, and other community benefits.

Can Capacity Builders use the funding to construct or repair roads, bridges, bike paths, sidewalks, and/or sewers?

Funding awarded to Capacity Builders through TCP is meant to support the provision of technical assistance, planning, and capacity building support to selected communities and is not intended to finance specific projects. Capacity Builder support may include, among other things, identifying and responding to funding opportunities, but the TCP funding itself cannot be used to pay for expenses associated directly with infrastructure.

Can TCP applicants apply to provide technical assistance through other DOT or Federal opportunities? Can applicants be selected for more than one?

There is no restriction from or prohibition on applying or providing technical assistance through other DOT or Federal opportunities. Eligible and interested applicants, for instance, can also apply to HUD’s TCP NOFO. However, an application for one program does not enable consideration for another.

The NOFO requires that at least 60% of the total project budget be for activities that provide direct support to communities. What types of activities count as “direct support to communities”?

The 60% includes direct technical assistance support provided to the community to enable them to advance efforts identified in their scope of work. It also includes activities that build long-term capacity in the community, such as direct costs to provide sub-grants, purchase necessary software, and supplement staffing for TCP recipients, which includes the lead applicant and its community partners. Other examples of direct support include but are not limited to conducting technical analysis or studies for the community; providing direct grant writing support or targeted technical assistance to the community; travel costs for direct support to provide the technical assistance, conduct site visits, etc.; and paying for software systems or training for communities.
Activities like training, research, and education that support the broader Community of Practice are not considered direct support to the community. Nor is program evaluation, project management, or grant management for the Capacity Builder. Supervisor salary or general overhead costs are not included as direct support. Nor is a program management database for the Capacity Builder.

Application Requirements

How does an eligible entity apply to be a Capacity Builder?

Eligible organizations, or teams of organizations, interested in applying must submit an application by 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, via Grants.gov. You can find the NOFO on DOT’s TCP webpage or on Grants.gov by searching Opportunity Number DOT-TCP-FY22-01. To submit an application via Grants.gov applicants must register with SAM.gov and Grants.gov. Registration can take between three to five business days or as long as four weeks. To avoid delays, DOT strongly recommends that applicants start early and not wait until the approaching deadline date before logging in, registering, reviewing the application instructions, and applying. Visit the How to Apply webpage for more information.

Further, applicants are required to be registered in SAM before submitting an application; provide a valid unique entity identifier (UEI) in the application; make certain certifications; and continue to maintain an active SAM registration with current information at all times during which they have an active Federal award or an application or plan under consideration by a Federal awarding agency.

What materials are needed for a complete application?

Those interested in applying to be a Capacity Builder should read closely the details for application submission included in the NOFO (see Section D.2). Successful applications include both the required program design and substance content and required forms and supporting documentation highlighted below:

  • Program Design and Substance
    • Executive Summary
    • Technical Assistance and Capacity Building Approach
    • Applicant Expertise, Staffing, and Project Management
    • Program Evaluation and Assessment
    • Budget Narrative and Cost Estimate
    • Schedule of Milestones and Deliverables
  • Forms and Supporting Documentation
    • Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424)
    • Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs (SF-424A)
    • Assurances for Non-Construction Programs (SF-424B)
    • Certification Regarding Lobbying (CD-511)
    • Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (SF-LLL)
    • Organizational Documentation (if applicable, depending on your organization type)
    • Indirect Cost Rate (ICR) Documentation (if applicable)
    • Unique Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

Does each Capacity Builder partner need a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) for Grants.gov?

The lead applicant who will submit the application to the NOFO and be the primary recipient of the funds must have a UEI. Each partner does not necessarily need to have its own UEI; however, if there is a subaward, the subrecipient must also have a UEI (2 CFR 25.300).

If an applicant applies to be a Capacity Builder for two Communities of Practice, would they need to submit two separate applications?

Unless the applicant is assembling two separate teams for proposed support, it is permissible to submit one application that describes how the applicant proposes to support both Communities of Practice. 

How should Capacity Builder applicants complete the budget narrative without yet knowing the communities they will be supporting?

Please refer to pages 18-19 of the NOFO (Sections D.2.e and f) for information on budget narrative and schedule requirements. DOT recognizes that information provided will be a good faith estimate given that the applicant does not yet know which communities will be selected for support. As such, the applicant is encouraged to provide as much information as possible to address the required elements. It is also allowable to provide a cost estimate or range or other qualifiers, as applicable. As stated in the NOFO, DOT will work with the selected Capacity Builders to finalize budget and milestones as part of the process to finalize the cooperative agreements to fund work supported through this program.

Program Requirements

Are partnerships encouraged for Capacity Builders?

Partnerships are strongly encouraged for Capacity Builders. DOT will evaluate applications across a set of criteria including proven success; quality project management; alignment with DOT priorities; centering community; flexibility and innovation; and impact size and longevity. Applicants that demonstrate extensive expertise across a multitude of technical issues, planning strategies, and capacity building approaches will be more competitive for an award. Applicants with clear involvement of disadvantaged business enterprises, small businesses or minority owned businesses, and/or community-based organizations in proposed deliverables will also be more competitive for an award.

Are there any reporting requirements for selected Capacity Builders?

Yes. All awards will be administered pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards found in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, as adopted by DOT at 2 C.F.R. Part 1201. Section F.3 of the NOFO describes the performance and program evaluation reporting requirements. Each cooperative agreement lead organization must submit quarterly progress reports to monitor progress and ensure accountability and financial transparency in the grant program. Each contractor must collect and report to the Build America Bureau (Bureau) performance information on the technical assistance and advisory services being provided. The specific performance information and reporting period will be determined on an individual basis and communicated at the kick-off meeting of the cooperative agreement. It is anticipated that the Bureau and the contractor will hold regular, informal meetings or calls to review project activities, schedule, and progress toward the scope of work.

Additionally, the TCP and its Capacity Builders will be evaluated against specific performance metrics to track the results and outcomes of the technical assistance, planning, and capacity building being provided. The NOFO provides guidance to applicants on elements that should be included in the Program Evaluation and Assessment Plan (see Section D.2.d), which is required to be in application submissions.

Are there certain milestones that Capacity Builders must meet if they receive funds?

Milestones are not prescribed to Capacity Builders. However, applicants must include a proposed set of tasks, a schedule, and major deliverables as part of their application. The proposed task organization and schedule will serve as a starting point for cooperative agreement negotiations with the selected teams.

Funding and Awards

What type of funding is available for selected Capacity Builders under TCP?

TCP provides reimbursable project funding to selected Capacity Builders through cooperative agreements covering a two-year period of performance. All awards will be administered pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards found in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, as adopted by DOT at 2 C.F.R. Part 1201.

How much funding is available for selected Capacity Builders?

In total, $21 million is being provided through the fiscal year 2022 NOFO. The number and funding amount of cooperative agreements will be dependent upon applications selected but is estimated to range between $3.5 million to $6 million per selected Capacity Builder for a two-year period of performance.

Is there a minimum or maximum award size for selected Capacity Builders?

There is no minimum award size for Capacity Builders, but DOT anticipates awards in the range of $3.5 million to $6 million. The size of awards will be determined by the number of awards given and informed by the selected applicant’s budget. After DOT has made selections, DOT will finalize specific terms of the cooperative agreement and budget in consultation with the selected lead applicant.

At least 60% of the total project budget should be for activities that provide direct support to communities. DOT expects that a portion of the project budget will be allocated to provide sub-granting, purchase necessary software, and supplement staffing, or support other activities that enable long-term capacity to be created for the recipient and community partners to successfully apply and manage Federal funding. DOT also encourages sub-granting or other activities that compensate local community partners who are providing technical assistance, planning, and capacity building support. DOT will reimburse labor and direct costs incurred by the Capacity Builder team, including subcontractors.

Is there a set number of cooperative agreements to be made?

The number of cooperative agreements will be determined by DOT and informed by the applications received and by the number and type of communities selected to receive TCP support. DOT anticipates at least three cooperative agreements will be awarded under the NOFO.

Is there a funding match requirement for Capacity Builder applicants?

There is no match requirement; however, DOT will score more highly those applications that demonstrate leverage of additional funding and other resources (whether public, philanthropic, or other private resources). This includes potentially providing deep dive support to additional communities, beyond the 10-15 selected by DOT, within the budget provided or through leveraging other funding or associated technical assistance efforts that the applicant or its team members may also be supporting.

Evaluation and Selection

What are DOT’s evaluation criteria for each Capacity Builder application?

Applications will be evaluated against six overarching criteria: proven success; quality project management; alignment with DOT priorities; centering community; flexibility and innovation; impact size and longevity. Additional details and sub-elements of each criterion are provided in the NOFO (see Section E.1). Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the criteria in developing their submissions.

If a consulting firm or nonprofit organization receives a TCP Capacity Builder cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity building support to a community or group of communities, can that same firm perform future planning, project design, and engineering support for projects that may be developed through TCP in the communities of support?

The specific limitations on participation in a later-funded project depend on the Federal funding source for that later-funded project. Generally, under 2 CFR 200.317 and 1201.317, if the recipient of funding for the later-funded project the TCP technical assistance, planning and capacity building is a state, then the recipient must follow the same policies and procedures it uses for procurements from its non-Federal funds, and the answer to this question is dependent on those policies and procedures. 

If the recipient of funding for the later-funded project TCP support is not a state, the answer is generally yes, the same firm or nonprofit organization may be hired if necessary competition requirements are satisfied. Per CFR 200.319, all procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner that provides full and open competition, eliminates unfair competitive advantage, and ensures objective contractor performance. Project sponsors must avoid creating situations that would unfairly favor the firm or nonprofit organization that helped develop applications for DOT discretionary grants or preclude other firms or organizations from competing. Additionally, if a Capacity Builder assists a community in drafting its solicitation for procurement proposals, it must be excluded from competing for that same procurement. 

If the later-funded project is funded under title 23 (i.e., the Federal-aid highways program), then it will also be TCP funds are subject to the requirements of 23 CFR 172, including the restrictions at 172.7(a) for the procurement of engineering and design-related services through: competitive negotiation (qualifications-based selection) procurement, small purchases procurement for small dollar value contracts, and noncompetitive procurement where specific conditions exist allowing solicitation and negotiation to take place with a single consultant. Similarly, if the later-funded project is funded from the Federal Transit Administration, then it will be subject to the Architectural Engineering (A&E) and Related Services requirements described in FTA Circular 4220.1F § IV.2.h.

Given that we are uncertain of the geography of the selected community participants, will applications be evaluated on the geographic reach of partners? For example, if a partner/firm has a regional footprint, will that be scored lower than a national footprint?

DOT is funding the Capacity Builder to support those communities that DOT selects to participate in TCP. The geographic reach of the applicant is one factor, among many, that will be evaluated by DOT in considering both the applicant’s experience in providing technical assistance and its potential to meet the goals of the TCP program. If there are regions where the applicant is currently working or has partners, it would be valuable to provide that information in your application so that it can be considered in the evaluation process. An applicant is not penalized for having a smaller geographic reach, per se, and has the opportunity in the narrative to describe how existing partners may be utilized or leveraged in the provision of technical assistance, planning, and capacity building to support deep dive technical assistance or advance a Community of Practice, or how it may expand the reach beyond these partners if selected as a Capacity Builder.

Timelines

When will DOT announce awards for Capacity Builders?

DOT anticipates selecting capacity builders by March 2023, at which time it will finalize scopes of work, budgets, and other project details through negotiation of cooperative agreements. DOT is hoping that TCP support to communities can begin by the summer of 2023.

What is the period of performance?

TCP funding is for a two-year period of performance (2023–2025).

Resources for Potential Applicants

Are there networking resources to help Capacity Builders make partnership connections?

DOT posted a list of potential Capacity Builders, which includes contact information only from those who registered for the October 12 or 19 webinars, consented to share their contact information publicly, and who indicated that they may intend to apply to be a TCP Capacity Builder. This list is being shared to facilitate team building. The information provided is not an endorsement for any firm or organization. The list can be found on the Thriving Communities Webinars webpage.

As my team considers applying to be a Capacity Builder, is there a way to better understand the needs of the communities that are applying for technical assistance to see if we are the right fit for providing support to those communities or who we’d need to team with?

DOT will not know the specific communities who will receive technical assistance until they are selected but has included in the NOFO the issues and types of anticipated technical assistance and capacity building needs based on issues and questions received from communities through recent DOT grant programs and responses to the Request for Information (RFI) that DOT published this summer in the Federal Register. You can view the comments received to the RFI.


LOI FAQs

Eligibility to Apply

Who is eligible to submit an LOI to receive planning, technical assistance, and capacity building through the TCP?

Those eligible to submit an LOI are state, local, or Tribal governments; a United States territory; a metropolitan planning organization or rural transportation planning organization; a transit agency; or other political subdivisions of a state or local government (for instance, but not limited to, a regional economic development district, a school board, a public health department, a public housing authority, a water management district, a workforce development board, a Council of Government, a County Planning Commission, etc.).

DOT requires one of these eligible entities to be the lead LOI applicant and have an implementation role for current or future transportation projects in the identified area that will be supported through the TCP. The lead applicant must identify a staff person to serve as the primary point of contact to coordinate with community partners, the assigned TCP Capacity Builder, and DOT throughout the entire two-year period of support. The lead applicant must also identify key community partners in their LOI.

Are Houses of Worship eligible applicants to receive support through TCP?

Religious institutions, including houses of worship, are eligible to be considered as a key community partner, but are not eligible to be a lead applicant.

Type of Support Provided

What type of support is provided?

Each selected community will be assigned a Capacity Builder funded by DOT to help them identify, develop, and advance a set of transportation, housing, and economic development projects. The specifics of this support will be co-designed with each community to address its key challenges and goals. While support may vary, it could include the following activities:

  • Identifying and responding to Federal funding opportunities
  • Conducting project scoping, planning, and pre-engineering studies and market and other technical analysis
  • Supplementing local staffing and workforce development capacity including to establish leadership, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeships programs
  • Developing systems or structures that improve compliance with Federal regulations and grant management or procurement requirements
  • Supporting comprehensive community planning that better coordinates transportation with land use, housing, and infrastructure development
  • Implementing innovative public engagement strategies, particularly to involve traditionally underrepresented voices including persons with disabilities and limited English proficient individuals.
  • Sub-granting to local technical assistance and capacity building partners who bring local expertise and capacity
  • Evaluating and deploying emerging transportation data and climate technology systems and software

Each community will also be assigned to a Community of Practice to facilitate learning over the two-year period between members of its team, and with other TCP-supported communities working to advance similar projects and community goals. TCP recipients may also receive targeted technical support as part of the national TCP capacity building network.

Community Partnerships

Are partnerships required for the LOI?

Yes. TCP is focused on comprehensive community development with infrastructure at the core. This requires partnership by multiple partners—both those in government who play a key implementation role, and those outside of government who are located in or serve the disadvantaged communities that are the focus of TCP support. The LOI requires lead applicants to identify two key partner organizations who will be engaged during the two-year process. Lead applicants will have the opportunity to add additional partners if selected for TCP support.

Partners can include any organization that is an eligible TCP recipient, but also non-governmental partners such as community-based organizations, business employers or labor organizations, private sector firms or developers, educational or anchor institutions, workforce development boards, faith-based organizations, community development financial institutions, philanthropic and civic organizations, nonprofits, and community advocacy groups with ties to the focus area.

Lead applicants from larger metropolitan areas or who represent statewide or regional organizations will be viewed more favorably if they include more than the required two key partner organizations. For the purposes of TCP, the lead applicant and its key community partners are referred to as the “Community.”

Can a Tribe’s transportation department consider the Tribe’s TDHE as a community partner, if the TDHE is a separate entity?

Yes. An organization that that is eligible to be a lead applicant, can partner with other government entities. For instance, a Tribe’s transportation department could partner with a Tribally Designated Entity (TDHE) such as a tribal housing authority, tribal housing department, or a nonprofit organization.

My organization is quasi-governmental. Are we eligible to be a lead applicant on the LOI or would we have to find one who is eligible and then sign on as one of their key partners?

For submitting a TCP LOI, units of local government are eligible to be a lead applicant or a key partner. For the purposes of TCP, a unit of government includes any agency, office or department of the state, city, county, district, commission, authority, entity, port, or other public corporation organized and existing under statutory law or under a voter‑approved charter or initiative, and any intergovernmental entity.

What is required from key community partners?

Those organizations identified as key community partners commit to working with the lead applicant and with others in the geographic focus area receiving support from TCP over the two-year period. Broadly speaking, these partnerships are designed to build community capacity including for meaningful public involvement, to assist in the coordination of infrastructure and community development goals, and/or to help implement the projects and plans developed through the program. There is no funding requirement for partner organizations to participate and they may be eligible for capacity building or subcontracting support through TCP.

One important requirement is that for those applicants considered as finalists for TCP support, Letters of Commitment from the lead organization and two key community partners must be submitted within 10 business days of notification by DOT. These should be signed by the organization’s executive director, commissioner, top elected official, or equivalent. Partner letters should clearly demonstrate that the partner is aware of its commitment to participate in TCP and must clearly describe:

  • The specific anticipated role of the partner organization and nature of the relationship between the lead applicant and partner organization, including a brief description of past formal or informal partnerships, if applicable.
  • If applicable, indicate whether your organization may be providing technical assistance, planning or capacity building support that could be directly supported by the TCP.
  • The partner organization’s relationship to the identified disadvantaged community and, if applicable, its experience with engaging meaningfully with the community.

DOT will provide more instructions on submitting Letters of Commitment to selected finalists.

Letter of Interest Submission Materials

What materials are needed for a complete LOI?

The LOI is intentionally designed to be easy for a low-capacity recipient to submit without the need of a consultant. A complete LOI includes responding to the 15 required items listed on the application webform. This includes submitting a needs statement (up to 500 words) and vision statement (up to 500 words); identifying at least two community partner organizations; identifying the geographic area of focus and verifying its disadvantaged community status; and indicating organization capacity and experience with DOT funding. DOT has created a worksheet to help applicants prepare their submission.

How does an eligible entity submit an LOI?

To submit an LOI, eligible recipients must identify the geographic area of focus for TCP support with a strong priority on those census tracts that are Federally determined to be disadvantaged. Additionally, eligible recipients must submit an LOI in partnership with at least two other partner organizations committed to advancing a community-driven vision for comprehensive and transformative transportation projects.

Letters of Interest must be submitted using the Thriving Communities webform. The LOI includes a set of questions to be answered through a fillable form, and a short statement of need (500 words) and short vision statement (500 words). DOT is not using Grants.gov, so it easier for communities who need support through this program to apply. If required, a paper copy of the LOI application can be requested via email ThrivingCommunities@dot.gov or by calling 202-366-2414.

The LOI must be submitted or postmarked no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on December 6, 2022.

Program Requirements

How does DOT define community in the Thriving Communities program?

The TCP is designed to support an identified community within which the program’s activities for comprehensive community- and data-driven transformative infrastructure and community development activities shall take place. It is not intended to support an entire state, metropolitan planning organization, or transit service area or other similar large-scale geographies but rather those communities and targeted geographies where technical assistance, planning, and capacity building needs are greatest.

Applicants should identify the geographic area that will receive the TCP support based upon locally understood boundaries and transportation patterns and needs. For example, this could be the name of the town, pueblo, or suburb in need of basic transportation infrastructure improvements or located near a major freight facility, or it could be the specific city neighborhood(s) or area of the county along a transportation corridor experiencing high rates of air pollution, or that is wanting to promote more development near transit stations, or where traffic safety and long-term community disinvestment challenges exist. The identified area is referred to as the “community” for the purposes of this program. Lead applicants who are Tribal governments or U.S. territories have the option to identify their entire political geography or identify a more focused area for participation in TCP.

Can you provide additional guidance on how to define the geographic area to be served in the LOI? For example, if an MPO applies, could their entire metropolitan region qualify?

Applicants should identify the geographic area that will receive the TCP support based upon locally understood boundaries and transportation patterns and needs. The region should focus specifically on an area or areas that most need support aligned with the goals of the program (i.e., most disadvantaged or under resourced; severe transportation cost burden or lack of mobility options; safety concerns; sustained disinvestment). The area cannot be an entire state, MPO, or transit service area, but it can be an entire Tribal area or U.S. territory.

How is disadvantaged community status determined and is this an LOI requirement?

To determine if the geographic area of focus, or “community,” identified for support through TCP qualifies as a Federally identified disadvantaged community, applicants can use any one or combination of the following:

Applicants may also indicate in their LOI form whether there are other Federally designated community development zones (for example: Empowerment Zones, Promise Zones, or Choice Neighborhoods) within the identified geographic area. All Tribal lands and US Territories receive priority under Justice40; and are therefore provided disadvantaged community status.

Additional instructions for using these tools can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/grants/thriving-communities/instructions-for-identifying-disadvantaged-communities.

It is not required that communities identified for TCP support be disadvantaged; however, DOT will prioritize supporting to disadvantaged and under-resourced communities.

If selected as a finalist for TCP participation, DOT will validate disadvantaged community status, and may prioritize communities based on their disadvantaged community status.

Is a match required for recipients of TCP support?

There is no match requirement to receive TCP support. DOT does require lead applicants to identify a staff person who will be a primary point of contact during the two years of TCP support to coordinate with the capacity builder, community partners and DOT staff located in their state, region, or headquarters.

What is a “Community of Practice” and how are they determined?

The TCP recognizes that not all communities are the same, and that peer learning works best when engaging with others who are working in similar types of communities and on similar issues. As such, TCP support is organized into three different Communities of Practice: (1) Main Streets targeted to rural and Tribal communities; (2) Complete Neighborhoods targeted to urban and suburban communities; and (3) Networked Communities located near ports, airports, freight, and rail facilities. Those interested in being a TCP recipient should indicate in their LOI which specific Community of Practice they are seeking to join so that they can be matched with appropriate capacity builders.

Applicants should choose the one that they feel best aligns with their community’s goals. For instance, a rural community located near a land port of entry may have more in common with the other Networked Communities working to address freight access and logistics than with another rural community that is more focused on retrofitting its main street. Similarly, a Tribal community located in a large urban metropolitan area may have more in common with other urban neighborhoods trying to promote transit-oriented development than with those located in rural areas working to improve basic infrastructure on Tribal lands. Every community, regardless of which Community of Practice it belongs, will be supported to advance projects and processes aligned with DOT’s Strategic Plan and Equity Action Plan priorities for meaningful public involvement, workforce development, labor and hiring preferences, small business development and procurement, climate and decarbonization, safety, and technology transformation.

Are there any reporting requirements for technical assistance recipients?

As a condition of receiving technical assistance, participants are required to participate in program evaluations undertaken by DOT or by the Capacity Builders funded through this program. The evaluation may include an implementation assessment to help identify outstanding technical assistance needs, lessons learned from effective delivery models, and progress toward programmatic and community-identified goals. DOT anticipates that to meet these annual evaluation reporting requirements, community recipients should spend no more than three hours annually providing qualitative and quantitative input. The lead applicant will also be invited to review and provide input to the final report developed by the Capacity Builder, which will be made publicly available by DOT.

Selection for Participation

How many communities will DOT select to receive support through TCP?

DOT anticipates selecting at least 30 communities for deep dive technical assistance support, assuming 10 communities are selected per Community of Practice. This number may increase based on the number of highly rated applicants and the number of Capacity Builders selected to provide support.

Will the selected communities be regionally connected or spread out across the U.S.?

LOIs are evaluated based on the criteria in Section G of the Call for LOIs. The Senior Review Team will consider the diversity of geographies, community types, and lead applicant types in making final selections. Based on these factors, the communities could be located anywhere in the U.S. Geographic co-location is not a factor for selection. However, the Senior Review Team will consider communities that share similar challenges and/or goals as other applicants for technical assistance that can fit well into a specific Community of Practice. These communities with shared challenges may potentially be located in similar geographic areas.

Is any support available for those who are not selected for direct technical assistance?

DOT will synthesize the information provided by all eligible LOIs to help inform and tailor DOT’s broader technical assistance efforts. DOT may publish information on submissions received to also inform other Capacity Builders within and outside of government working to support communities. Additional support through TCP will be dependent on future Congressional appropriations.

Timelines

When is the LOI submission deadline?

Letters of Interest must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST on December 6, 2022, via the webform available here: https://www.transportation.gov/thriving-communities-program-letter-of-interest. If requested, applicants may submit a paper LOI, but these must be postmarked by December 6, 2022. Late submissions will not be reviewed.

If selected as a TCP finalist, the required Letters of Commitment must be submitted within 10 business days of notification by DOT per program requirements.

When will DOT announce selected communities?

DOT anticipates selecting communities by March 2023, with TCP support beginning once cooperative agreements with Capacity Builders are finalized.

Last updated: Thursday, November 17, 2022