Ironically, the city's history as a hurricane target is further expediting recovery efforts, mainly by providing the means to address nonroadway-related items such as sidewalk repair, bike lane striping and signage, tree planting, and landscaping.
Of the $27.5 billion the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) allocated for road and bridge improvements, Louisiana received $30 million.
The local metropolitan planning organization created a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to coordinate the distribution of stimulus funding funneled to Louisiana through FHWA's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which is the state match to the TIP. The TIP grant process is intended to fund projects that represent a regional consensus. As part of the funding process, the city enters into a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) with the state DOT. The state manages financial administration, federal compliance, and monthly program reimbursement tracking while public works collects invoice backup and approves local expenditures.
The state will soon begin reimbursing the department every month based on the FHWA ratio of construction, administration, and inspection costs at the time of authorization, which are 1.5% of project costs. Any overages are addressed jointly by the department and FHWA via the state DOT. Although documentation is usually archived for three years for federal audits, public works will prepare documentation annually in anticipation of potential legislative audits.
So far, the department has received $22 million for two projects. When the state received the construction bids, it determined that the projects don't require a city match — thereby making them 100% federally funded and essentially giving the department “free” money to apply to future match funding. Stimulus enhancement-related funds are also being tacked onto already available financing through the submerged roads program, which is only for work that takes place within the footprint of current projects.
By submitting projects that met the state program's letting schedule as well as the stimulus requirement that projects be completed within a year following the award of competitively procured bids, New Orleans is expected to receive an additional $10 million for 20 road, shared- and dedicated-use bike lane, and landscaping projects (for more information, see the “Web extra” box on this page). They came in at a combined cost of $10 million and just began construction. Another seven enhancement projects went out for bid Sept. 30.
Unlike the projects funded through the state TIP, public works isn't a party to the CEA related to these projects.
Instead, the DOTD works with the state to manage them. As the designated CEA party member, the state oversees stimulus reporting and document-management requirements and public works handles the on-the-ground efforts while continuing to locate and approve enhancement sites, choose materials, and finalize details.
Finding, evaluating, coordinating, and administering new and existing infrastructure funding opportunities is a full-time job in and of itself, so Mendoza — like many managers — retains outside expertise. Since 2006 the city has paid approximately $4 million to firms that specialize in accessing and managing such opportunities.
In addition to providing a strategic plan for maximizing FEMA-eligible work, these firms advocate for clients by serving as intermediaries between the state and federal agencies to ensure the flow of funding continues. In addition, they address any questions or concerns related to the funding and provide any requested documentation to support funding requirements.