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USDOT Solicits Applications for Its New "Corridors of the Future Program"


09/08/06

On September 5, the United States Department of Transportation published a Notice in the Federal Register[1] requesting applications for its new "Corridors of the Future Program" (CFP).  A copy of the Notice is available here.  The purpose of the CFP is to accelerate development of multi-state and multi-modal transportation solutions to congestion, by initially selecting up to five major transportation corridors for expedited treatment.  The Notice identifies six primary objectives for the CFP:

  • To promote innovative regional approaches to mitigation of congestion
  • To address major transportation needs
  • To demonstrate the benefits of alternative financial models involving private sector capital
  • To promote more efficient processes for environmental review and project development
  • To develop corridors that will improve freight system reliability and enhance the quality of life for US citizens
  • To demonstrate that a transportation investment model based on sound economics and market principles is viable.

Program Benefits

While no new source of funding is associated with the CFP, USDOT identifies the following potential benefits to the successful applicants:

  • A more efficient environmental review process
  • Accelerated review and conditional approval of experimental features under USDOT's Special Experimental Program - 15 (SEP-15) process
  • Expedited commitment for TIFIA[2] credit assistance
  • Conditional approval for use of private activity bonds under the SAFETEA-LU[3] provisions allowing up to $15 billion in such bonds
  • Priority consideration for tolling programs and consideration for SEP-15 flexibility for tolling
  • Access to USDOT experts
  • Assistance in identifying other possible sources of discretionary funding.

Two Phase Application Process

USDOT envisions a two-phase application process. 

1.   Phase 1 – Initial Proposals.  The first step is for a state, a combination of states, or a private entity to submit an initial proposal.  While the Notice provides that the initial proposal "does not require the concurrence of all affected States," the Notice also states expressly that "the proposals should involve two or more States."  Neither the form nor the substance of any agreement between or among several corridor states is specified, but the initial proposal should provide information "about the status of agreement among the States to advance the proposed Corridor."  Private entities are directed to consult with relevant State transportation agencies and Governors' offices prior to submitting a proposal.

      October 23 Deadline for Initial Proposals.  Proposals are due on or before October 23, 2006, although late proposals may be considered.  Proposals are to be no more than ten pages in length, single spaced.  The proposal should provide a description of the proposed Corridor, including its purpose, location, preliminary design features, rough estimate of capital cost, proposed delivery schedule, likely financing arrangements, traffic trends, and information with respect to the status of agreements among the involved states to advance the project.  USDOT anticipates that by mid-November, it will review the proposals and invite selected proposers to advance to the next stage of the process. 

2.   Phase 2 – Detailed Application.  The second step is for the invited proposers to submit a detailed Corridor Application, which is due by April 2, 2007.  Extensions may be granted by the FHWA Chief Counsel on request.  The Notice states: "All Federal, State, and Indian tribal governments that own property which will be directly impacted by the proposed Corridor should concur in the Application."

The Notice identifies nine elements to be addressed in the application, including:

A.         A physical description of the Corridor, with a detailed map showing its connections to existing transportation infrastructure

B.         A description of how the Corridor would reduce congestion, with specific consideration of projected travel trends and national impact on freight and traffic congestion

C.         Expected mobility improvements, including both people and freight, as well as how transportation technologies will be used

D.         How the Corridor would support economic growth, including the percentage of overall traffic that would be freight

E.         Benefits users would enjoy

F.         Innovations in project delivery and financing features, including eligibility for TIFIA credit assistance and private activity bonds

G.         Innovative methods to be used to complete the environmental review process and for mitigating pollution

H.         Financing plans and the private sector's role, including use of any of the following: a long term concession or franchise arrangement; design, build, operate and maintain contracting; design, build, finance and operate contracting; build, own and operate contracting; or design-build contracting

I.          Proposed project timeline.

USDOT intends to identify the Corridors approved for further development after the spring of 2007.  After approval, the public agencies involved in a CFP project would work together in a "Coalition" to negotiate a CFP Development Agreement addressing financing, planning, design, environmental processes, construction, operations, maintenance, and other aspects of the Corridor. 

Contact Information – Comments and Questions

The Notice identifies Michael Harkins (202) 366-4928 and Alla Shaw (202) 366-1042, both Attorney Advisors in the Office of the Chief Counsel, as persons to contact for additional information.

Nossaman would also be pleased to forward any comments or questions you may have to the Office of the Chief Counsel.  Among other things, we would be interested in receiving input regarding the feasibility of submitting initial proposals within the short time frame allowed, in light of the request that proposals "involve" more than one State. 




[1] Corridors of the Future Program, 71 Fed. Reg.  52,364 (September 5, 2006).

[2] Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-178, 112 Stat. 241 (1998). 

[3] Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, Pub. L. No. 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144 (2005).

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