Yesterday we had a really great meeting with Neil Hansen and Lisa Dunn of the TDOT Local Programs Transportation Enhancement Program. My firm is helping several communities get their grant applications submitted (the deadline is November 1, 2011) and since I am responsible for the purpose and need portion of the application I wanted to make sure I was on the same page as them when it comes to what to include.
Before I get started about some of the things I learned in our meeting I need to tell you a little about the Enhancement Grant Program. First off Neil and Lisa are really pleasant to deal with and REALLY, REALLY know their stuff about the Transportation Enhancement (TE) program. THEY ARE THE EXPERTS, PERIOD!
Something to keep in mind though is the the TE program is relatively small (maybe about $10-$12 million in grants available for FY2012) to the rest of TDOT’s operations. Another issue is that the rest of TDOT does not quite understand the TE program. Reason being is that the rest of TDOT is focused on roads and bridges. The TE program is about transportation enhancements like visitor centers, trails, pedestrian lighting, downtown courthouse revitalization’s, decorative trash cans, and plants and trees to name a couple of activities. These are not the activities that “Big” TDOT is used to dealing with.
The result of this is that for all intensive purposes the TE program is the equivalent of the “Red Headed Stepchild” of TDOT. Now that is not something that Neil and Lisa would say, but that is something that I have seen from direct experience. This means that getting approvals, and other needed support from the rest of TDOT can be at times problematic. Some of you may have already found this out the hard way. The point is that if something is taking a long time to get done, 99% of the time it is NOT Neil or Lisa’s fault.
Ok, I learned several things yesterday that will take more than one blog post to cover. The big thing that I learned and want to cover now is what all needs to be included in the purpose and need for your TE Application. If you go to the TDOT website it has the application and instructions there. But what was emphasized to me yesterday was that ALL phases of the project need to be included in your purpose and need for THIS application.
So if you are submitting phase III for FY 2012 funding how many total phases will this project have? What is the status of phases I and II? Lets say that in a perfect world your downtown master plan will submit 10 phases, they want to know what the project will cover in TOTAL in all 10 phases, and then specify that “…but all we are submitting for funding this year is phase III which only covers X”.
This sounds a little strange but there is a reason for it. This application and its information, if it gets funded, will feed into a NEPA document. If that NEPA document is able to cover ALL 10 phases, then it will make it much easier to do then have a separate NEPA document for each phase.
OK, that is enough for today. As I work on these applications I will let you know more of what I learn. I suspect that there will be several more blog posts on the Enhancement process.