Federal Aid Process Cheat Sheet

We’ve created a quick cheat sheet with some “Do’s and Don’ts” to help you through the Federal Authorization process.  We realize that flipping through the Local Assistance Procedures Manual can be quit cumbersome, and hopefully this cheat sheel can help you with some of your more general questions.  We’ve tried to keep it simple and one page for easy reference.  The list of “Don’ts” are some of the most common errors we encounter when receiving an RFA.  Please feel free to contact you Local Assistance representative if you have any questions or comments.

The Federal Aid Process Cheat Sheet

RFA for Preliminary Engineering – You must have authorization before you begin any reimbursable work.  If you are hiring consultants you must follow the federal consultant selection guidelines.

  • Begin design.
  • Begin CEQA and NEPA.  NEPA can be done concurrently with CEQA.  You must have an approved NEPA before you begin final design and before you authorize RW.  The benefit to performing CEQA and NEPA concurrently is if technical studies are required for NEPA, you can possibly include them in your environmental consultant contract for CEQA.  Start your NEPA process by filling out the PES form and sending to Local Assistance contact.
  • Preliminary RW activities are allowed under PE authorization.  These activities include title searches, preparing preliminary property maps and appraisal maps, and gathering cost estimates.  You must not contact property owners until you receive RW authorization.
  • Don’ts – Don’t begin Final Design until you have an approved NEPA.  The intent is that environmental constraints should play a role in alternatives selection and defining the scope of the project.

RFA for Right of Way – To get RW authorization, you must have an approved NEPA.  There are preliminary RW activities that can be performed under PE authorization, but you will need RW authorization before you start negotiating with property owners, acquisition and relocation assistance.  If you are not seeking federal reimbursement for RW, you must still have an approved NEPA before you begin RW activities.

  • RW funds can be authorized at any time after you have an approved NEPA.  You do not have to wait until you complete PE activities.
  • All RW certs must be reviewed and approved by Caltrans.
  • “No RW Certs” are no longer accepted by FHWA.  A new Exhibit 13-A Short Form has been created for projects that DO NOT require RW acquisition, relocation assistance, or railroad involvement and the only utility relocation involvement is utility cover adjustments.
  • Yes, utility cover adjustments are considered a utility relocation.
  • Don’ts – Don’t submit RFA without an approved NEPA.
  • Don’ts – Don’t begin RW activities until you have an approved NEPA (regardless of whether or not RW activities will be federally reimbursed).

RFA for Construction – To get Construction authorization you must have an approved NEPA and RW cert.  You must also have a completed PS&E package and be ready to advertise before your RFA will be accepted.

  • Construction Engineering must be authorized at the same time as construction authorization and is recommended to allow greater flexibility in utilizing federal funds. CE cannot be authorized at a later date to try to expend federal funds in the event of bid savings.
  • Don’ts – Don’t submit an RFA for Construction without Caltrans approved RW Cert or NEPA.
  • Don’ts – Don’t submit PES form with RFA.  Your NEPA should have been completed a long time ago.
  • Don’ts – Don’t advertise a project until you receive authorization.  Your project may be declared federally ineligible.

To download and print a version of the tips, click here:  The Federal Aid Process Cheat Sheet

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