Project planning and regulation
Federal, state, and local governments create laws, regulations, and standards that guide transit project construction. These rules govern functions like planning, design, construction, use of public funds, procurement and awarding of contracts, real estate acquisition, and safety and security certification of projects.
Federal rules exist to guide project governance (e.g. requirements for project management oversight plans, such as through the Project Management Oversight Rule described in 49 CFR Part 633), processes (e.g. requirements to assess a project’s environmental impacts, as described in NEPA, and standards (e.g. requirements to build projects that provide equal access to persons with physical and mental disabilities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act).
State and local governments also set regulations that govern project delivery, including laws that require or restrict specific forms of procurement. Twelve states do not allow the use of some forms of public-private partnerships (P3s) for public transportation projects, and all but two states (Iowa and North Dakota) allow for the use of design-build. Some states restrict the use of alternative delivery methods, in part as an attempt to avoid corruption and also because traditional procurements retain most of the control with the public sector, which some states are reluctant to give up. Other states legislate specific exceptions for projects, but the lack of local enabling legislation remains a substantial barrier to broader use of these methods. Similarly, some local laws and agency policies limit the use of reimbursable price contracts, restricting pricing contracts to some form of fixed-price agreement.
Project planning is a locally or state-run and -conducted process that occurs through federally mandated MPO transportation improvement programs and long-range transportation plans. The planning is typically done at the state or locally controlled transit agency, and MPOs receive federal funding to support the creation of plans that describe the development, integrated management, and operation of multimodal transportation facilities and systems. These processes determine long-term transportation priorities to meet anticipated transportation demand in specific states and regions, and thus determine which projects are most suitable for investment. Once there is a determination of the need for a transportation investment, an alternatives analysis is conducted to consider mode and alignment options. The alternatives analysis is a cooperative process undertaken by the MPO, state DOT, public transit operators, environmental, resource, and permit agencies; local officials, and other agencies that may be affected by the proposed alternatives. Public review and participation are a part of the alternatives analysis, though there is no specific amount of time or format required to collect this input.
The project sponsor, which is the primary entity managing project delivery (typically a transit agency), composes a project management plan to determine policies governing project delivery. Early project development is also the phase that includes risk analysis and procurement planning, which enable the project sponsor to determine a project delivery and contracting approach. Project sponsors are also required to develop a safety and security management plan at this stage.
Finally, the project development phase includes environmental review in accordance with NEPA. For large rail projects, early on during NEPA review, project sponsors communicate project details to the public and identify public concerns as part of the scoping process. NEPA review entails meeting other federal regulations for the protection of natural and cultural resources, such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, and assessing how proposed actions will affect those resources. The FTA and other federal agencies then decide whether the project can move forward.