When someone tells me that “…it’s not about the money.” then I know it actually is about the money. That is what the Notice to Proceed is about. Funding.
So, if you are a local government and you want to construct a road or bridge project on a local road or street (NOT a State route or Interstate) and use ONLY local funds, then the Notice to Proceed does not apply to you. It is your money, you can do with it as you please, TDOT does not have a dog in that fight, go ahead and bid it out or use your own forces.
HOWEVER, if you want to use your Federal or State funds (and be reimbursed for it) that have to be administered through the local programs office, then it is ALL about the Notice to Proceed.
In the Tennessee local programs world there are 5 kinds of Notice to Proceed’s.
NTP-PE-NEPA Notice to Proceed for Preliminary Engineering-NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) with this one you can start on the environmental document and get reimbursed for it.
NTP-PE-Final Design Notice to Proceed for the Preliminary Engineering for the final design plans. Notice, you MUST have your completed NEPA document BEFORE you can start on the plans
NTP-ROW Notice to Proceed for Right of Way. This allows you to start the ROW phase of work. This NTP will actually be emailed to your Regional ROW. What this does is force the local government to have a dialog with the TDOT ROW Office about getting started on the ROW process. You must have both an approved NEPA document, and an approved (by TDOT) set of plans before you can get this NTP.
A BIG NOTE OF CAUTION here. All ROW must be acquired according to the Federal Uniform Act. Not following the Uniform Act or trying to dodge around it is one of the two “unforgivable sins” in the local programs world. By this I mean if this process gets botched up and the Federal rules are not followed and violated, the FHWA can have all of the Federal funds removed from this project FOREVER. Meaning all of the Federal funds that have been spent to date will have to be paid back by the local government, and Federal money will NEVER EVER be able to be used on this project
Pretty serious business. Bottom line is do not breath the word “ROW” unless you are holding the hand of the TDOT Regional ROW staff, no matter who tells you.
In the ROW phase several other things are happening at the same time the ROW is getting sorted out and certified (by TDOT).
- The DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) goal will need to be set
- Utilities Certification through the Regional TDOT utilities office will need to be obtained. If there is a rail road (R/R) involved (within 200 feet of the project, or the project affects the R/R in any way) then there are Big complications in getting that sorted out.
- Any permits will need to be acquired and Permits Certification obtained by TDOT
- If the local government has not already done it, they will need to be Title VI certified by TDOT’s Title VI offfice
- The bid book needs to be sent in and be reviewed and approved by the TDOT Construction office
- The detailed engineers estimate needs to be submitted and approved by TDOT
- We need to see that the proposed bid advertisement follows the TDOT template
Wow, that sounds like a lot, and it is. That is part of why this process is so tricky. Without all of that stuff above, the funding for Construction can not be obligated.
NTP-Construction Notice to Proceed for Construction. Ok, so you and your consultant have gotten the local programs office ALL of that stuff above and they have gotten the funding set up and emailed you the Construction NTP. Now you can advertise the project for bids (FHWA considers the ad part of the construction phase). You have to advertise it ONCE and then wait 21 days to open bids.
About advertising the project. It needs to be run in the local paper, the big regional paper, and any minority newspapers. You have to wait the 21 days from the time the last add ran. Meaning, if you advertised it in 3 papers, two of them on Monday, but the third only runs on Friday it is 21 days from that Friday. I tell my folks to wait 22 days just to be safe. Oh, by the way I know that this costs a bloody fortune, and it is a reimbursable project expense.
OK, so you ran your ads and waited 22 days. Now you open your bids in a public forum (court house steps or something like that) read all the bids aloud. You announce the “tentative” lowest responsive bidder, pending TDOT’s concurrence in the award of the project. You then need to scan all of the bid tab information into a pdf (or several) and email them to the local programs office along with an excel spreadsheet that shows the item numbers, the estimated quantities and price, along with each of the other bids side by side.
This all gets sent to the TDOT construction office for them to review. They will make sure that all the bids are complete, all of the bidders are responsive, and that there are no unbalanced bids. They will compare the bids with the estimate to make sure that we are comparing “apples to apples”.
Once the TDOT Construction office concurs in the award, they will let the local programs office know, which will in turn email the local government.
Now a pre-construction meeting can be set up. This involves the Regional Construction and Materials and Test office.
At this point the local programs office’s role sort of diminishes. Mainly you just send us bills for us to reimburse you. As long as TDOT Construction and Materials and Test are happy everything is ok.
NTP-Implementation Notice to Proceed for Implementation. This is an NTP that is used on a non-construction related transportation project. Examples include rideshare, air quality outreach programs, diesel retrofit projects, ozone alert days programs and things like that. They still require a NEPA document, but not much else.
Ok, I know I have covered a lot of ground here, but this is the nuts and bolts important stuff. Oh, and before I forget the other “unforgivable sin” is going to work on a phase of work prior to a Notice to Proceed. Reason being, is that you can not, and will not get paid for the work that got done.
Like I said, it is all about the money.