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Solicitation of Proposals for the National Rural Transit Assistance Program

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Solicitation of Proposals for the National Rural Transit Assistance Program

K. Jane Williams
Federal Transit Administration
31 July 2019


[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 147 (Wednesday, July 31, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 37385-37388]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-16301]



[[Page 37385]]

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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration


Solicitation of Proposals for the National Rural Transit 
Assistance Program

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of funding opportunity.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is soliciting 
proposals under the agency's Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program to 
select an entity to administer a National Rural Transit Assistance 
Program (RTAP). The National RTAP will carry out activities to design 
and implement training and technical assistance projects and other 
support services tailored to meet the specific needs of transit 
operators in rural areas, including Indian Country. Primary activities 
will include the development of information and materials for use by 
local operators and State administering agencies, and supporting 
research and technical assistance projects of national interest.

DATES: Complete proposals for funding opportunity FTA-2019-005-TPM-
NRTAP must be submitted electronically through GRANTS.GOV. All 
applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on August 30, 
2019.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Marianne Stock, FTA Office of Program 
Management, (202) 366-6508 or marianne.stock@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Table of Contents

A. Program Description
B. Federal Award Information
C. Eligibility Information
D. Application and Submission Information
E. Application Review Information
F. Federal Award Administration
G. Federal Awarding Agency Contacts

A. Program Description

    The Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program, authorizes the 
Secretary of Transportation to carry out a Rural Transportation 
Assistance Program (RTAP) in rural areas.
    FTA's National RTAP is funded under the Formula Grants for Rural 
Areas Program to enhance the delivery of public transportation services 
provided by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and operators of 
rural public transportation. Since 1979, FTA has provided grants to 
States under the Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program and its 
predecessor programs to establish and maintain transit systems in 
communities with populations of less than 50,000 individuals. Rural 
transit systems and community transit drivers, dispatchers, maintenance 
workers, managers, and board members need special skills and knowledge 
to provide quality service to their diverse customers across large, 
rural service areas. The National RTAP was created in 1997 to carry out 
projects of a national scope that provide transportation assistance in 
these areas.
    The National RTAP provides for the development of information and 
materials for use by local operators, State DOTs and State funded 
transit agencies, and supports research and technical assistance 
projects of national interest. The FTA carries out the objectives of 
the National RTAP through a cooperative agreement that establishes and 
provides financial assistance for these activities. FTA selected the 
current recipient to administer the National RTAP in 2014. Consistent 
with the Uniform Administrative Requirements of 2 CFR200, every 5 years 
the FTA competes the administration of the National RTAP.
    FTA also supports assistance for local RTAP activities through 
funding apportionments to the States. The State RTAPs develop and 
implement training and technical assistance in conjunction with the 
State's administration of the Formula Grants for Rural Areas Formula 
Program. The State RTAPs and National RTAP complement each other and 
both are funded under the Formula Grants for Rural Areas program.
    The objectives of the National RTAP are:
     Objective 1: To promote the delivery of safe, effective 
and efficient public transportation in rural areas.
     Objective 2: To support State and local governments in 
addressing the training and technical assistance needs of the rural 
transportation community.
     Objective 3: To conduct research, including analysis of 
data reported to FTA's National Transit Database, and to maintain 
current profiles of the characteristics of rural transit as well as the 
inventory of providers of rural, tribal and specialized transportation 
providers.
    Since its inception, the National RTAP has developed and 
distributed training materials, provided technical assistance, 
generated reports, published best practices, produced scholarships, 
conducted research, and offered peer assistance with the goal of 
improved mobility for the millions of Americans living in rural 
communities. The National RTAP also has developed tools for use by 
rural transit providers in providing their service, and provided access 
to scholarship, research and training through sponsorship of and 
participation in conferences attended by a variety of constituents with 
interest in rural and tribal transit. For more information on the 
various programs and services provided by the National RTAP, visit the 
National RTAP website at: http://www.nationalrtap.org/AboutUs.aspx.

B. Federal Award Information

    FTA is authorized to use two percent of funds appropriated for its 
Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program for research, technical 
assistance, training, and related support services in rural areas. Of 
this amount, FTA expects to award the administration of the National 
RTAP as a cooperative agreement. FTA will fund the cooperative 
agreement for up to five (5) years, subject to availability of funds, 
and the apportioned balance to the States to carry out State RTAP 
activities.
    FTA intends to fund the National RTAP with $1,936,904 in Fiscal 
Year (FY) 2018 funds for the first year. FTA may extend funding for 
this center for up to five (5) years; however, subsequent funding will 
depend upon: (1) Future authorization and appropriations; (2) decisions 
and program priorities established by the Secretary of Transportation 
related to implementation of the National Rural Transportation 
Assistance program; and (3) annual performance reviews. Congress 
apportioned an additional $2,097,966 for National RTAP in FY 2019.

C. Eligibility Information

    Eligible proposers are non-profit organizations with rural and 
tribal transportation experience that have the capacity to provide 
public transportation-related technical assistance and the ability to 
deliver a national technical assistance and training program. There is 
no local match or cost sharing requirement for this program.

D. Application and Submission Information

1. Address

    Applications must be submitted electronically through GRANTS.GOV, 
as described above. General information for registering and submitting 
applications through GRANTS.GOV can be found at https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants.html along with specific instructions for the 
forms and attachments required for submission. Mail and fax submissions 
will not be accepted. A complete proposal submission will consist of at 
least two

[[Page 37386]]

files: (1) The SF-424 Mandatory form (downloaded from GRANTS.GOV); and 
(2) a narrative application document in Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, 
or compatible file format. The narrative application should be in the 
format outlined in Section 2 below. Once completed, the narrative 
application must be placed in the attachments section of the SF-424 
Mandatory form. Proposers must attach the narrative application file to 
their submission in GRANTS.GOV to successfully complete the proposal 
process. A proposal submission may contain additional supporting 
documentation as attachments.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

    Proposals must be submitted in a Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, or 
compatible file format, double-spaced using Times New Roman, 12-point 
font. The proposal must contain the following components and adhere to 
the specified maximum lengths:
    a. Cover sheet (1 page).
    The cover sheet must include the name of the entity submitting the 
proposal, the principal's name, title, and contact information (e.g., 
address, phone, fax, and email), and the name and contact information 
for the key point of contact for all five activities (if different from 
principal).
    b. Abstract (not to exceed 4 pages).
    The abstract must include the following sections: background, 
purpose, methodology, intended outcomes, and plan for evaluation.
    c. Detailed budget proposal and budget narrative (not to exceed 3 
pages).
    d. Project narrative (not to exceed 25 pages)
    The project narrative must include the following information:
    i. The methodology for addressing the goals and objectives;
    ii. Objectives, activities, deliverables, milestones, timeline and 
intended outcomes for achieving the goals outlined in the scope for the 
first year;
    iii. The existing and future capacity of the organization to 
address the issues outlined in the proposal and the organization's 
ability to implement goals and objectives;
    iv. A detailed plan for communication, technical assistance, and 
outreach at the State and local levels;
    v. A plan to work with stakeholders and build partnerships at the 
national level and;
    vi. Staff qualifications, including: (1) Prior experience providing 
technical assistance, especially related to public transit in rural 
areas, (2) prior experience implementing the other tasks outlined in 
this solicitation, (3) staff members' knowledge of issues related to 
public transit in rural areas, and (4) a one-page biographical sketch 
for each staff member.
    e. Plan for evaluation of National RTAP activities and performance 
measures (not to exceed 5 pages).
    f. Supplemental materials, such as bios and letters of support, can 
be included in an appendices section that is beyond the page limits 
above but may not exceed 15 additional pages.

3. Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

    Each applicant must: (1) Register in SAM before applying; (2) 
provide a valid unique SAM entity identifier in its application; and 
(3) continue to maintain an active SAM registration with current 
information, during which the applicant has an active Federal award or 
an application or plan under consideration by FTA. These requirements 
do not apply if the applicant: (1) Is excepted from the requirements 
under 2 CFR 25.110(b) or (c); or (2) has an exception approved by FTA 
under 2 CFR 25.110(d). The FTA may not make an award until the 
applicant has complied with all applicable unique entity identifier and 
SAM requirements. If an applicant has not fully complied with the 
requirements by the time FTA is ready to make an award, FTA may 
determine that the applicant is not qualified to receive an award and 
use that determination as a basis for making a Federal award to another 
applicant. SAM registration takes approximately 3-5 business days, but 
FTA recommends allowing ample time, up to several weeks, for completion 
of all steps. For additional information on obtaining a unique entity 
identifier, please visit www.sam.gov.

4. Submission Dates and Times

    Project proposals must be submitted electronically through 
GRANTS.GOV and must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on August 
30, 2019. GRANTS.GOV attaches a time stamp to each application at the 
time of submission. Proposals submitted after the deadline will only be 
considered under extraordinary circumstances not under the applicant's 
control. Mail and fax submissions will not be accepted.
    Within 48 hours after submitting an electronic application, the 
applicant should receive two email messages from GRANTS.GOV: (1) 
Confirmation of successful transmission to GRANTS.GOV; and (2) 
confirmation of successful validation by GRANTS.GOV. If confirmation of 
successful validation is not received or a notice of failed validation 
or incomplete materials is received, the applicant must address the 
reason for the failed validation, as described in the email notice, and 
resubmit before the submission deadline. If making a resubmission for 
any reason, include all original attachments regardless of which 
attachments were updated and check the box on the supplemental form 
indicating this is a resubmission.
    The FTA urges applicants to submit proposals at least 72 hours 
prior to the due date to allow time to receive the validation messages 
and to correct any problems that may have caused a rejection 
notification. GRANTS.GOV scheduled maintenance and outage times are 
announced on the GRANTS.GOV website. Deadlines will not be extended due 
to scheduled website maintenance.
    Applicants are encouraged to begin the process of registration on 
the GRANTS.GOV site well in advance of the submission deadline. 
Registration is a multi-step process, which may take several weeks to 
complete before an application can be submitted. Registered applicants 
still may be required to take steps to keep their registration up to 
date before submissions can be made successfully: (1) Registration in 
the SAM is renewed annually; and (2) persons making submissions on 
behalf of the Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) must be 
authorized in GRANTS.GOV by the AOR to make submissions. How to 
Register to Apply through Grants.gov. To register and for detailed 
instructions, please see the ``APPLICANTS'' tab in Grants.gov (https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants.html). To be eligible to apply for 
this opportunity, organizations must have a Data Universal Numbering 
System (DUNS) Number, active SAM registration, and an established 
Grants.gov account. Creating a Grants.gov account can be completed 
online in minutes, but DUNS and SAM registrations may take several 
weeks. Therefore, an organization's registration should be done in 
sufficient time to ensure it does not impact the entity's ability to 
meet required application submission deadlines. Complete organization 
instructions can be found on Grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/organization-registration.html.

E. Application Review Information

    Proposals will be evaluated by an internal review team based on 
each applicant's response to the following criteria: (1) Methodology to 
Meet the

[[Page 37387]]

Goals of the National RTAP; (2) Qualifications of Key Personnel, 
Experience, and Knowledge; (3) Communication, Technical Assistance, and 
Outreach Strategy; (4) Technical, Legal, and Financial Capacity; (5) 
Ability to Work with Stakeholders and Build Parternships at the 
National Level; and (6) Plan to Evaluate the NRTAP activities. The 
criteria are explained below:

1. Methodology To Meet the Goals of the National RTAP

    The FTA is seeking innovative and effective approaches and 
strategies to accomplish the project objectives. Proposals will be 
evaluated based on the proposed methodology for addressing the goals 
and objectives of the National RTAP, as well as the capacity of the 
organization to address the issues outlined in the proposal. The 
proposal should clearly explain the objectives, activities, 
deliverables, milestones, timeline and intended outcomes for achieving 
the goals outlined in the scope for the first year, and how the 
organization intends to implement them.

2. Qualifications of Key Personnel, Experience, and Knowledge

    The proposal should demonstrate that key personnel have the 
appropriate skills and experience to carry out the activities. The FTA 
will evaluate the qualifications and experience of the key staff 
detailed in the proposal for their: (1) Prior experience providing 
technical assistance, especially related to public transit in rural 
areas, (2) prior experience implementing the other tasks outlined in 
this solicitation, (3) knowledge of issues related to public transit in 
rural areas.

3. Communication, Technical Assistance, and Outreach Strategy

    The proposal should demonstrate the ability to execute a technical 
assistance program with a national scope, as well as strategies for 
delivering targeted assistance to State, regional, and local 
stakeholders. Proposing organizations are encouraged to think 
innovatively about this technical assistance delivery.
    The proposal also should demonstrate the ability to carry out 
outreach, dissemination, and information management activities. These 
activities will include capturing and sharing useful and best practices 
in rural transportation operations, as well as supporting activities 
related to FTA's tribal transit program. The proposal should 
demonstrate innovative approaches, such as the use of communication 
that is accessible through social media and other information 
technologies, to accomplish effective stakeholder strategies that both 
manage and plan the engagement. Rural and tribal communities have 
unique needs, and the proposal should reflect engagement touchpoints 
and the ability to meaningfully engage with these communities in other 
to produce successful transportation outcomes.

4. Technical, Legal, and Financial Capacity

    The proposal must include an effective project management plan to 
administer and manage the National RTAP and must demonstrate that the 
applicant has the technical, legal, and financial capacity to carry out 
the plan. FTA will evaluate the applicant's:
    a. Technical capacity to administer and manage the services 
proposed;
    b. Total budget and staffing; and
    c. Evidence of understanding of the National RTAP mission and 
comprehensive technical approach to delivering the National RTAP.
    The proposal should indicate a strong organizational capability to 
address the issues and activities outlined in the proposal. In 
addition, the proposal should indicate experience in managing and 
monitoring sub-recipients and contractors, if any are included in the 
proposal. The recipient selected must be an eligible recipient for a 
cooperative agreement with FTA and able to sign the required 
certifications and assurances.

5. Ability To Work With Stakeholders and Build Partnerships at the 
National Level

    The proposal must include a plan for effective and meaningful 
stakeholder engagement. The proposal will be evaluated based in the 
quality and effectiveness of the plan for engaging and supporting 
stakeholder engagement to drive the activities of the National RTAP.

6. Plan To Evaluate the National RTAP Activities

    FTA will evaluate the effectiveness of proposed performance 
measures and the plan for collecting and reporting on data related to 
the National RTAP's products activities, and outcomes.

F. Federal Award Administration

1. Federal Award Notices

    Final award decisions will be made by the FTA Administrator. In 
making these decisions, the Administrator will take into consideration:
    a. Recommendations of the review panel;
    b. past performance of the applicant regarding programmatic and 
grants management compliance;
    c. the reasonableness of the estimated cost to the government 
considering the available funding and anticipated results; and
    d. the likelihood that the proposed project will result in the 
transportation outcomes expected.
    The FTA will notify the successful organization and may announce 
the selection on its website https://www.transit.dot.gov. Following 
notification, the successful entity will be required to submit its 
application through the FTA Transit Award Management System (TrAMS). 
The FTA will work with the successful applicant to develop a detailed 
cooperative agreement and may require modifications to the proposal 
before a cooperative agreement is awarded. The FTA will award and 
manage a cooperative agreement through TrAMS.

2. Award Administration

    (A) Grant Requirements
    The successful applicant will apply for a cooperative agreement 
through TrAMS and adhere to the customary FTA grant requirements of 
Section 5311(b)(3)(C).
    (B) Competitive grants and cooperative agreements greater than 
$500,000 will go through the Congressional notification and release 
process. Assistance regarding these requirements is available from FTA.
    (C) Standard Assurances
    The applicant assures that it will comply with all applicable 
Federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, FTA circulars, and 
other Federal administrative requirements in carrying out any project 
supported by the FTA grant. The applicant acknowledges that it is under 
a continuing obligation to comply with the terms and conditions of the 
cooperative agreement issued for its project with the FTA. The 
applicant understands that Federal laws, regulations, policies, and 
administrative practices might be modified from time to time and that 
modifications may affect the implementation of the project. The 
applicant agrees that the most recent Federal requirements will apply 
to the project, unless FTA issues a written determination otherwise. 
The applicant must submit the Certifications and Assurances before 
receiving a cooperative agreement if it does not have current 
certifications on file.

3. Reporting

    Post-award reporting requirements include submission of Federal 
Financial Reports and Milestone Progress Reports

[[Page 37388]]

in TrAMS on a quarterly basis. Documentation is required for payment. 
Additional reporting may be required specific to the National Rural 
Transportation Assistance Program and the recipient may be expected to 
participate in events or peer networks related to rural transit. The 
Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) requires 
data entry at the FFATA Sub Award Reporting System (http://www.FSRS.gov) for all sub-awards and sub-contracts issued for $25,000 
or more, as well as addressing executive compensation for both grantee 
and sub-award organizations.
    Additionally, FTA may evaluate and report on the success of the 
program. Applicants may be required to provide information for this 
purpose indicating the need, problem, or opportunity addressed by 
activities of the program. The national significance and relevance to 
the public transportation industry must also be clearly demonstrated.

4. Legal Capacity

    Applicants must certify that there are no legal issues which would 
impact their eligibility and authority to apply for FTA funds, or 
prevent their acceptance of FTA funds.

G. Federal Awarding Agency Contacts

    For further information concerning this notice, please contact the 
Technical Assistance program manager Marianne Stock by phone at 202-
366-2677, or by email at marianne.stock@dot.gov. A TDD is available for 
individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing at 800-877-8339.

    Issued in Washington, DC.
K. Jane Williams,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2019-16301 Filed 7-30-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P

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