Mark Debald, Transportation Program Administrator
The DCTC's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) represents the five-year listing of federally funded transportation projects in Dutchess County. The TIP includes projects that will be wholly or partially paid for with funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The previous Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2014-2018 TIP went into effect on October 1, 2013, covering FFY 2014 through 2018; it was superceded on October 1, 2016 by the FFY 2017-2021 TIP. The TIP lists the schedule and estimated cost for each phase of a project. Project schedules and costs change periodically, usually as the result of personnel, consultant, or resource availability, and the refinement of a project’s scope as it is advanced. The TIP, though updated to reflect project schedules and costs prior to obligation, does not provide real-time, accounting-level precision of project costs and schedules. Therefore, to ensure that the public has an accurate understanding of how federal funds are actually spent on transportation projects, the current federal transportation law, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), includes a requirement that organizations responsible for approving the TIP publish an annual listing of project obligations ("Obligation Report"): Annual Listing of Obligated Projects - Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2016 (.pdf)
What are project obligations?
One might think of this as setting up a checking account for a purchase and then making an initial deposit. In order to begin work on any phase of a transportation project, federal funds must be obligated. This means that money is set aside for that particular project (deposited in the "checking account" for the project), which can then be used to pay bills. The project expenses may be bills from a design consultant, a construction contractor, or payroll costs for agency employees working on the project.
Do project obligations mean the work is underway?
Not always. Project obligations are made to allow a project phase to begin, but it takes time to get work underway once the phase is obligated. For example, once the construction phase is obligated, the project can then be advertised for bids. The advertisement period can vary depending on the size and complexity of the project (up to five weeks in some cases). Bids are then opened and verified and the project awarded to a contractor. This process can create a three to four month lag between initial obligation and noticeable work performed by the contractor at the site.
There are instances when a project phase is obligated, but work is never started or not completed in a timely manner; these are generally due to competing sponsor priorities and funding constraints. If there is a question on the status of a specific project, we recommend that the project sponsor be contacted.
The current Obligation Report lists projects that had federal funds obligated during FFY 2016 (October 1, 2015–September 30, 2016) in the FFY 2014-2018 TIP. The listing is split into two parts: FHWA and FTA funded projects. The Obligation Report includes basic data about each obligated project, such as the Project Identification Number (PIN), project description and sponsor, total federal cost, the amount of federal funds programmed on the 2014-2018 TIP, and the amount of federal funds obligated in FFY 2016. The Obligation Report only includes information on project phases obligated in FFY 2016. These phases include the following:
1. Preliminary Design: Provides a precise picture of the project, including identification of environmental, right-of-way, and other variables that require consideration before deciding to continue the project.
2. Detailed Design: Provides plans, specifications, and estimates necessary to bid and construct the project.
3. Right of Way Incidentals: Preparation work done prior to the acquisition of right-of way.
4. Right of Way Acquisition: Acquisition of any right-of-way necessary to construct the project.
5. Construction: Actual construction and related activities, beginning with the letting of the contract, through the award of the contract, actual completion, and acceptance of all construction work.
6. Construction Inspection: Supervision, inspections, engineering, contingencies, orders-on-contract, and other administrative/miscellaneous activities required to fulfill construction requirements.
7. Miscellaneous: When associated with transit projects, involves the purchase and acquisition of rolling stock and associated equipment, though it can include work on stations, parking, and maintenance/ storage facilities. For highway projects, it corresponds to the construction phase and represents the phase where the proposed improvement is implemented.