As I have mentioned several times the TDOT Locally Managed program process is a reimbursement program. Once everything is setup, and funding is put in place, the local government pays their engineering firm, or their contractor, then turns around and submits a reimbursement request to the TDOT Local Programs Office.
There is an additional step to move your project through that you may not have heard about before.
Funding is set up for each specific phase of work.
- Preliminary Engineering-Environmental Phase or PE-NEPA. This covers the environmental document and required project survey.
- Preliminary Engineering-Final Design or PE-Design. This covers all of the plans work. If there is no Right of Way (ROW) involved with the project, then it includes all of the work required to get permits/utilities (including railroad)/ROW certifications, the bid book and detailed estimate. Basically everything that is required to allow TDOT to obligate funds for Construction and issue a Construction Notice to Proceed (NTP)
- Right of Way (ROW) this phase of work is set up for a project only when there is actual ROW to acquire as part of the project.
- Construction. This is when you are issued a Notice to Proceed (NTP) for Construction and can then actually bid the project out.
If the Local Government does not send TDOT at least one reimbursement request for the current phase of work, TDOT will not obligate funds for any subsequent phases of work. This is even if all the other work for that phase has been approved by TDOT.
Meaning, if your project does not have a ROW phase (PE-Final Design only), and you have submitted and gotten everything approved for the Construction phase of work, but have not sent TDOT a reimbursement request for PE-Final Design, TDOT will not obligate funds for Construction.
Here is the reasoning behind this:
- TDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) do not want projects to just sit out there with Funds obligated and no work being done on them on them. When they obligate funds they want to see work done. Or they will want to take that money and put it on a project that is doing something.
- The only way that TDOT and FHWA know if a project is active and work is being done is by seeing whether or not they are paying bills on it. So, this is why I ask local governments to send bills to TDOT monthly, or at least every other month. It keeps TDOT and the FHWA off your backs.
I understand the TDOT/FHWA reasoning. I also understand why local governments don’t send in reimbursement requests. For the most part the City Recorder, or administrative person at the County wears about 7 different hats. This person is responsible for what 5 or 6 people were previously responsible for.
While bills from your engineering firm are not cheap, they are also not nearly as huge as those from contractors for construction. Therefore it is easy to get a bill from your consultant, pay it, and move onto the next “fire” to put out. That and some State and Federal programs require you to wait until the end of projects before submitting one huge reimbursement request.
The TDOT reimbursement process is different than the way all other reimbursements have to be handled. It is not difficult, but it is just one more thing to learn for people who are already overworked. This is why sending a reimbursement to TDOT can be pushed off to the side.
This blog post is for:
- Consultants: Follow up with your clients and make sure that they are sending in reimbursements for each phase of work to TDOT. Or else TDOT will not fund the next phase of work. This means that you need to be sure to send the local government bills for each phase of work separately. Otherwise the local government is going to have to break them out and separate them latter.
- Local Governments: Send TDOT regular reimbursement request for each phase of work. Otherwise this could hold up the project.
Yes, I understand that this is yet one more unwritten step in getting your project done. I wanted to share this with the local programs community so that your project is not the one that gets delayed several weeks as you figure out why TDOT won’t obligate funding and issue your next NTP.
If you have any questions about how to submit a reimbursement to TDOT please feel free to give me a call at 615-838-6944 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help.