What We've Heard From You
See our responses to questions posed by applicants, coordinators, and division contacts during the FY2008 and FY2009 Grant Outreach Calls, as well as other questions we have received.
Questions fall into the following categories:
- Administrative Criteria
- Eligibility Categories
- Indian Tribes
We received NSBP funding in FY 2008, but the funding has not yet been allocated. In the application for funding you request that the applicant include information on prior projects. How should I handle this?
In the Prior Projects section of the application, we request that you discuss the relationship, if any, between the project being proposed and previously funded NSBP grant projects. Since you've yet to receive the FY 2008 funding, you'll want to note the name of the FY 2008 project, the amount of funding awarded, note that the funding has yet to be received so work on the project has yet to commence, what steps you are taking to implement the FY 2008 project and obligate funding, and provide information on how the current funding request relates to/builds on the prior award.
In submitting my application, I would like to include a letter from a contracting firm with a project estimate that supports the numbers I plan to include in the Budget/Cost Breakdown section of the application. Should I include this as an attachment?
Including a cost estimate as an attachment is fine as additional back-up to support the information included in your application. However, we request that applicants include all applicable budget information in the Budget/Cost Breakdown section of the application and not rely on attachments as the primary source of information either here or in other sections of the application. Attachments should support the information included in the application but not be relied on to be the sole source of project information. Applicants are encouraged to include as much relevant information as needed to effectively support the request for funding in the appropriate sections of the application. Also, please remember that in general under 23 U.S.C. 112, National Scenic Byways Program construction projects within the highway right-of-way must be awarded on the basis of the lowest responsive, responsible bidder unless the State DOT is able to demonstrate that some other method is more cost effective or that an emergency exists (see: http://www.bywaysonline.org/news/2008/967). Procurement of projects is also subject to 49 CFR Part 18 or Part 19.
How many letters of support should I attach to my application?
As with all attachments to your grant application the emphasis should be on quality and not quantity. Letters of support that highlight particular project elements and why they are important provide the reviewer with a better sense of stakeholder support for the proposed project.
As byway coordinator, when I conduct my online review of the projects submitted, is this where I enter the priority ranking of the projects being advanced?
Yes, some people also include the project rankings in the cover letter that they send along with the applications to the FHWA Division Offices.
Can I print a blank copy of the electronic application so I can see the questions that I must answer before actually filling out the application?
Yes you can. Simply go into the system as if you were to begin your application. Click on "Start a new application," and log in as usual. You can give this application a name, and save it. You then have the ability to print out a paper copy of the application, and can choose to save it, or simply delete it from the system.
Based on the administrative criterion (see page 13 of the FY2009 Grant Information) that states "Funding will be targeted toward projects that provide the greatest strategic benefits. FHWA is particularly focusing on projects with demonstrated benefits for the byway traveler and invites the application of large-scale, high-cost projects that provide strategic benefits to the byway," should I think about "bundling" or combining projects?
Only if it makes sense in relation to the other eight (8) administrative criteria cited, meets the selection criteria (refer to page 12), and results in eligible project activities (refer to pages 14-35). Other considerations such as capacity to implement, project management and coordination, etc. need to be addressed. That said, this may be an opportunity to view things from a larger, more comprehensive, perspective in relation to projects like directional signage and interpretation.
When you say "high-cost projects" what sort of number are you looking for?
No dollar value has been identified. It will depend on the comprehensiveness and merit of the project.
In my State I'm working on trying to strengthen the various byway organizations before suggesting the advancement of projects. Based on the administrative criterion regarding Greatest Benefits, should I encourage applicants to jump into big ticket items?
It is important to remember that this is one of nine criteria and you might consider viewing this as an opportunity to spur additional ideas and opportunities. That said, you need to think about what is best for your program.
For many folks, coming up with the match for a $50,000 project is a lot of money and the administrative criterion regarding Greatest Benefits is a concern. Will you only be considering big budget projects?
It is important to remember that the Greatest Strategic Benefits criterion (page 13 of the FY2009 Grant Information) is just one of nine (9) criteria and should be viewed within that context.
We hold a byways conference every year that is tremendously beneficial to our State program. With the introduction of the administrative criterion, will this type of activity be considered for funding?
Again, it is one of nine (9) criteria but as in all applications, it will be important that the applicant tell the story compellingly and cite perceived benefits.
We've established 14 trailheads along our byway complete with interpretation, but there are no restroom facilities available. Can we apply for a National Scenic Byways Program grant for the construction of restroom facilities?
Yes, you can apply under the Byway Facilities eligibility category (see http://www.bywaysonline.org/grants/application/information/category_4). Since you've indicated that the interpretation at the trailheads highlights the byway's intrinsic qualities and that the restrooms will be located in close proximity to the trailheads the construction of restroom facilities could enhance the byway traveler experience. You'll just want to make sure that the budget is proportionate to the benefit to byway travelers and clearly demonstrate the benefit to the byway traveler (rather than primarily serving other customers of the facility).
How should I advise applicants to apply for the funding of activities that were previously funded under seed grants?
As of FY 2007, seed grants are no more! As such, applicants are no longer limited to $25,000. Most of the activities previously funded under seed grants can be applied for under either the State and Indian Tribe Scenic Byway Programs or Corridor Management Plan eligibility categories.
What is a D-U-N-S® Number?
A Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) D-U-N-S® Number (Data Universal Numbering System) is a unique nine-digit sequence recognized as the universal standard for identifying and tracking over 100 million businesses worldwide. It enables potential customers, suppliers and lenders to easily identify and learn about your organization. The D-U-N-S® Number is widely used by both commercial and federal entities and was adopted as the standard business identifier for federal electronic commerce in October 1994. The D-U-N-S® Number was also incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in April 1998 as the Federal Government's contractor identification code for all procurement-related activities.
I'm interested in submitting a grant for the development of a Corridor Management Plan, how can I determine the cost of such a project?
The cost for development of a Corridor Management Plan can vary greatly depending on the length of the byway, the concentration of resources, etc. You may want to check with other byways that are similar in scope to yours either through posting your question on the Discussion Forum on http://www.bywaysonline.org or by utilizing the contact list on the same website to reach out to some of your peers, or by gathering estimates based on what you think the scope of your project will be. You may want to coordinate with your State DOT or metropolitan planning organization on the cost of other transportation planning, environmental, or corridor studies.
If I'm submitting a funding request for a project that is part of a larger initiative, do I need to submit a budget for the whole project budget or just for the portion of the project for which I'm requesting funding?
In submitting an application for NSBP funds you need to include a budget that is reflective of the project for which you are requesting funding. In other words, the budget you submit under the "Budget" tab in the online system should only reflect the project that you hope to complete with National Scenic Byways Program funds. You may, however, wish to include information on the larger initiative in the Narrative/Project Summary section of your application which falls under the "Details" tab in the online system. Please remember that one of our Administrative Criteria targets projects with demonstrated benefits for the byway traveler. If the proposed project is part of a larger initiative, the proposed project's benefits to the byway traveler will be considered in the context of whether or not the larger initiative's completion is necessary for the benefits to the byway traveler to be achieved. If so, information on the larger initiative may be necessary. If the project will achieve benefits to the traveler regardless of completion of the larger initiative, these should be highlighted.
Is it true that county and local governments can use in-kind services as part of their match?
Yes. Please refer to pages 38-40 in the FY2009 Grant Information for additional information on matching funds requirements. It is worth noting that these requirements are not specific to the National Scenic Byways Program. Rather they apply to all Federal Aid Highway programs.
Who verifies the value of an in-kind match item?
If the project is funded, then the value and the source of the in-kind or non-cash match must be documented and supported in the project records when carrying out the project. As such, the State or Indian tribe may request a valuation, as well as the FHWA Division Office.
How are Indian tribe applications viewed in comparison to State applications with regard to the prioritization of projects?
Under SAFETEA-LU, Indian tribes were granted the authority to submit applications for NSBP funding directly to FHWA for consideration and are not subject to State prioritization. When comparing Indian tribe and State applications, the projects will be reviewed and advanced for funding based on merit and the other administrative criteria.
We have several Indian tribes interested in submitting applications for FY2009 funding. Because the deadline for submitting applications to the FHWA Division Office is later, my advice has been that it probably makes more sense to submit their applications directly to the FHWA Division Office rather than through the State DOT? Does this make sense?
While Indian tribes have the right to submit their applications directly to the FHWA Division Office, sometimes there is a benefit to applying through the State DOT because oftentimes the applicants can benefit from working with the DOT to craft the application. While the deadline for submitting the application to the DOT is often earlier than the deadline for applications to be submitted to FHWA, there is also more time to make modifications to improve the application in the event that additional information or detail is necessary to strengthen the application. But it is up to the Indian tribe as to whether or not they see value in this approach.
Regarding your new livability criterion, there appears to be a contradiction. For example, we’re looking at a sidewalk project that will link two byway facilities and provide connectivity between a local school, library, and other town facilities. It seems to meet the desired livability goals, but somehow it seems to conflict with activities that are not normally eligible because they are defined as “streetscaping and/or local sidewalks” that primarily benefit the local community.
There really is no contradiction as first and foremost, all funding requests submitted for consideration through the National Scenic Byways Program must be eligible under NSBP criteria. Specifically, an applicant must substantiate the primary connection to the byway and byway traveler. To the extent that there is a defined value-added for the community, we may view this in context of the livability criterion.
To those proposed projects that appear to be primarily of benefit to the community, we would not apply the livability criterion, and the request would not be considered eligible for funding consideration.
Is there a limit on the amount of funding you award each State/Indian tribe per grant cycle?
No, the selection of projects is based on eligibility, the statutory Selection Criteria (see http://www.bywaysonline.org/grants/application/information/selection_criteria), the Administrative Criteria included in the Grant Information (see http://www.bywaysonline.org/grants/application/information/admin_criteria), and funding available.
Will FHWA be providing feedback on applications submitted for funding consideration in FY 2009?
FHWA will only be providing feedback on non-funded projects to help provide assistance to those applicants on how they might improve their application should they decide to apply for future funding. For guidance on administering funded projects, all of the conditions guiding the use of National Scenic Byways Program funds can be found on pages 5-6 of the FY2009 Grant Information.
It's hard for people to understand that once NSBP grant awards are announced that they may need to wait until the funds are available to commence/resume their work on a project. Couldn't you just wait until the funding is available?
There are many steps necessary in order to fund a project. Although we understand that some recipients may not know Federal requirements for authorization, we also want to give States, tribes, and sponsors as much time as possible to comply with other requirements, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, to prepare documentation, and to secure local approvals. In addition, once grant awards have been determined, we are required to notify Congress regarding projects that have been selected for funding and as such, the information becomes public.
In the FY2009 Grant Information, under the Conditions for National Scenic Byways Programs Funds section (page 6) it states that "A building purchased, restored, or improved using National Scenic Byways Program funds should be owned or operated by a government entity, Indian tribe, or a legally organized not-for-profit entity or part of a not-for-profit entity. Land acquired using National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) funds should be owned or controlled by a government entity, Indian tribe or a legally organized not-for-profit entity or part of a not-for-profit entity." Does that mean that a building or land acquired using NSBP funds must be owned or controlled by the entities listed above?
There may be exceptions to these conditions. Buildings and land that do not meet these conditions would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be consistent with the requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 as amended (see page 6 of the FY2009 Grant Information). http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/realestate/realprop/index.html.
I'm struggling with the current deadlines for submission. What can I do to get this information out to byway leaders earlier in the future so that they have adequate time to prepare their applications?
Some States have a preliminary application process in place whereby they encourage byway leaders to be thinking of the projects they plan to advance so that when the solicitation is made for National Scenic Byways Program funding they are prepared to submit their applications. Essentially most of the Grant Information that guides the submission of projects for funding consideration does not change from year to year (e.g., eligibility categories, laws, etc.) which facilitates preliminary application and review. That said, the NSBP is a discretionary program so the Secretary of Transportation retains the right to change the Administrative Criteria. For a list of current Administrative Criteria, please refer to page 13 of the FY2009 Grant Information.
If FHWA funds design documents but the project is not constructed within ten (10) years, can the agency request reimbursement of the design costs under 23 CFR?
With few exceptions, NSBP funded projects are subject to the same laws and requirements as other Federal Aid Highways projects. Project specifics would need to be discussed with the FHWA Division Office.