Any time you are going to get a project going through the TDOT local programs office, you will need to send in a formal letter requesting to get the process started. This letter does not have to be very long (1-3 pages or so), but there are some specific things that need to be in it. In this post I will try and outline how to craft one of these letters.
- Rule number one remember the KISS principle (Keep it Simple Silly). You may be a consultant with “P.E.” after your name, or a highway superintendent or public works director who has been building roads before I was born and could do this project in your sleep. Just remember that I am neither, and I am the knucklehead who will be trying to figure out what we are doing from this letter. Please keep it at about a 6th grade writing level, and in terms that a lay person would understand.
- The letter must come from the City or County. Yes, I know that half the time your consultant will either write the letter for you, or help you write it. However it must come from the local government on city/county letterhead.
- Clearly explain the scope of work. Is this a resurfacing project? A resurfacing project with sidewalk, curb and gutter? Do you just want to hang a signal, or will you be adding turn lanes, and ADA sidewalk upgrades? Where will the turn lanes be added? Lay out exactly what the start and stop termini of the project is, and everything we plan on doing. Again, keep it clear and simple so a lay person could understand.
- Describe the purpose and need of the project. Have there been a large number of accidents there? Is the road falling apart and getting unsafe? Have you done a traffic warrant study? Briefly describe why we are doing this project.
- Give us a Budget for the project. If there are several sections to the project it would be helpful to know what your construction estimate is for each one. What is your total project estimate for Preliminary Engineering (PE) for the NEPA document? For PE-Final Design? Is there any ROW involved? If so how much is your estimate for acquiring it? What is your total Construction estimate?Now a quick note about your Construction estimate. You will have to hire a consultant to perform the construction engineering inspection (usually about 10% of the total cost for construction) . Include this into your construction estimate because that is where TDOT will count it.If this project will be funded through you small cities STP balance mention that. If it is through the MPO does it have it’s own TIP page, or is it coming out of a bucket? If it is in an MPO area attach the TIP page to the letter.
- Include project maps. Now you don’t have to hire a consultant to go all GIS on this. We basically need two maps. The first is one that shows where the project is if someone (like me) where going to drive there to look for it. The second map can be more project specific and show what it is that we are doing, and where the project stops and starts.This does not have to be a big deal. It can be something that you printed off Google and marked up with a pen and highlighter. Just as long as we can understand it.
- Who will manage the project? If you (the city/county) want to let the project to contract using the local programs process then say it. If you want TDOT to manage the project because you are not staffed and equipped then put it in the letter. If you have previously managed a project through TDOT, like an enhancement project, then briefly state that and give us the PIN number so we know which project you handled.
That is about it. Like I said it does not have to be that long. And remember if you have questions, call the office. We would be happy to review the letter before you sign it and send it in. I hope this helps clear up some questions.