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Chapter 90 funds are allocated by the state directly to municipalities based on a funding formula. These funds support roadway improvements and typically comprise a large portion of municipalities’ basic maintenance budgets. The Town of Nantucket (rather than the region) manages these funds.
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The Transportation Program Manager is an employee of the regional body—the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission—rather than the Town of Nantucket; however, the Transportation Program Manager coordinates with the town frequently, providing technical assistance for capital projects, studies, and other transportation needs. Due to the unique relationship between the town and the region, the Transportation Program Manager position is paid for by the town, but direct salary costs are reimbursed by the federal government with the state functioning as a pass-through.
While the Transportation Program Manager coordinates regularly with Town’s Department of Public Works, the Transportation Program Manager is not directly involved with town maintenance operations, nor does s/he manage budgets related to the DPW’s work. Creating a service ticket is the most efficient way to address maintenance needs: service ticket.
No. The Transportation Program Manager only manages an annual work program budget for regional planning work. The Transportation Program Manager also manages coordination with the state and federal government when a capital project is slated to receive state or federal aid funding support.
The Transportation Program Manager provides technical support to the town upon request if the request is consistent with the region’s Unified Planning Work Program, which is approved by the NP&EDC. The Transportation Program Manager provides guidance and support to the town but will not make formal recommendations on policy. As an employee of the NP&EDC, the proper vehicle for policy recommendations is communication/correspondence from the NP&EDC to the Select Board.
The town government does not directly receive federal aid through federal transportation formula programs. By contrast, the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC—the regional body) has Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) “obligation authority” to spend up to a certain amount of federal aid on projects that have passed certain design thresholds and requirements. The apportioned amount for this authority is based on a funding formula defined in federal legislation, which is then further divided up at the state level across regions in Massachusetts. Typically, Nantucket’s region—the NP&EDC—is authorized to program and spend between $600,000 and $700,000 per year on transportation projects. Obligation authority is a limit or ceiling on the amount of federal aid that can be used year to year, but this amount excludes discretionary competitive grant programs or other various forms of state and federal aid. If state and federal aid transportation project costs exceed the obligation ceiling, Nantucket must identify additional funding support for projects.
It is important to note that “obligation authority” refers to the ability to spend federal aid but does not necessarily mean that the region uses these funds each year. In other words, the region isn’t simply given $600,000 to $700,000 each year to do with what it pleases. For the region to be able to use these funds, a project must be documented in the region’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRPT) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The project’s design must then be reviewed and deemed acceptable by MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Projects using state and federal aid are also subject to design compliance and reporting beyond that of local regulation. The required reporting and coordination for state and federal aid projects typically results in a longer timeline for project execution. As such, federal aid is typically reserved for longer multi-year projects.
The NRTA receives federal aid through the Federal Transit Administration in a separate tranche of federal aid funding. These funds support both capital (for example things like buses, fare purchasing equipment, depot infrastructure) and operations (labor). The region’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) aid can also be “flexed” to the Federal Transit Administration to support defined transit needs.
Some smaller items, like signage and markings, are considered eligible capital purchases and can be purchased with federal highway obligation authority funds. These sorts of purchases do not require the same level of design review, but installation costs must be furnished by the local government—in this case, the Town of Nantucket. Small intersection improvements require design and engineering services. As such, these kinds of projects tend to be better suited to local implementation due to the design and reporting requirements required for state and federal aid projects. The Transportation Program Manager does maintain a list of intersection improvement requests for inclusion in the Long Range Transportation Plan in the event there are opportunities to “bundle” projects together for state and/or federal funding support. The viability of this approach, however, is not guaranteed.