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Section 2: Project Negotiation Process

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Introduction

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Traffic Operations Division (TRF) staff initiates grant agreement and contract negotiations with state agencies and other organizations sponsoring approved projects with statewide impact. TRF district Traffic Safety Specialists (TSSs) negotiate with local governments and other entities to finalize local projects.

After the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) approves funding for the Highway Safety Performance Plan (HSPP), the Traffic Operations Division - Traffic Safety Section (TRF-TS) sends the district TSSs a list of projects authorized for funding in each district (the “Approved Project List”). Before the approved project list is issued, the TRF-TS planner assigns each proposal a project manager. The district TSSs are assigned as project managers for local projects and the division program managers are assigned projects under the applicable program areas. Project negotiation (also entitled “Project Modifications” by the Traffic Safety Electronic Grants Management System [eGrants]) begins at this time, with project development negotiations.

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Negotiation

Negotiation allows the project manager and the approved subgrantee to arrive at an understanding on the specific details of the project (such as budget detail amounts, Selective Traffic Enforcement Program [STEP] sites, resolution, etc.) so that agreement preparation can proceed. Negotiating involves discussion, clarification, or modifications to the proposed project. Items to be discussed during the negotiation phase include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • problem identification (described in Chapter 2, Section 3)
  • project plan (described in Section 3 of this chapter)
  • performance measures, goals and objectives (described in Chapter 2, Section 4)
  • grant period (definition follows)
  • frequency of Requests for Reimbursement (RFRs) and Performance Report submissions
  • maximum amount eligible for reimbursement (not to exceed the amount shown on the Approved Project List)
  • budget content (described in Chapter 3, Section 7)
  • Cost Assumption Plan (CAP) requirement (described in Chapter 2, Section 6).

NOTE: An awarding agency may review the adequacy of the financial management system of any applicant for financial assistance as part of the pre-award review or at any time subsequent to award.

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Negotiation Guidance

The following are some guiding questions to assist the project manager and the subgrantee to ensure adequate resource allocation and to determine if the project objectives, performance measures and goals are workable and achievable as proposed.

  • Do the objectives and performance measures directly address the identified problem?
  • Are the objectives clearly stated and achievable?
    • Is a completion date indicated for each objective?
    • Is sufficient time allocated to achieve each objective?
  • Will performance measures provide adequate evidence of project activity and accomplishment of objectives?
  • For STEP grants, does the proposed STEP Indicator appear realistic and achievable?
  • Are personnel needs accurately identified? For example:
    • If a grant objective requires engineering studies, an engineer must be involved.
    • If an objective involves Public Information and Education (PI&E), does the subgrantee have the resources available to perform and meet the objective? Is the subgrantee aware of TxDOT’s traffic safety PI&E policies and are they able to meet the requirements?
    • If the objective(s) involve law enforcement, are a sufficient number of appropriately trained officers available?
  • Have all scoring team external comments for the proposal been reviewed and addressed?
  • Are there other considerations that might affect project performance? If so, are they adequately addressed?
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Cost Analysis

The project manager will review all proposed costs to determine that they are necessary, reasonable, and in compliance with applicable cost principles. The TxDOT Audit Office (AUD) is available to assist in the analysis if requested to do so.

To review all proposed costs, the program and project manager should:

  • ensure that all necessary costs have been identified in the proposal
  • review any justifications for the proposed costs
  • review each proposed cost element for necessity, reasonableness and consistency with the proposal
  • identify any cost element that requires more explanation or justification and that appears too high or too low
  • review subcontracts, when they are proposed, using the same steps.

The following are some guiding questions to assist the project manager in conducting a cost analysis of proposed costs to ensure that all budgeted items are deemed to be necessary and reasonable to carry out program objectives.

Salaries and Fringe Benefits

  • Are the number of staff and staff hours proposed consistent with operational requirements? If not, are they too high or too low?
  • Does the proposal contain a satisfactory rationale for determining the number of positions for each operational area?
  • If subcontracted staff is proposed, is it excluded from the proposer’s direct staffing? Has the proposing agency submitted a subcontractor’s proposal or other data enabling the analysis of subcontractor staff levels and costs?
  • Are position levels proposed commensurate with skill levels needed to carry out functions? Are they too high or low?
  • Are the proposed rates consistent with prevailing area rates? If not, can the reasons for the differences be identified and justified?
  • Does the proposal break out the components of the fringe benefit package? Does the fringe rate package conform to the proposing agency’s policy, and is it made up of usual and reasonable components?

Travel Costs

  • Are local travel costs explained in the proposal? Are destinations, frequency, and distances identified? Are they necessary and reasonable?
  • Is the mileage rate for local travel consistent with the proposing agency’s policies as well as TxDOT’s travel policies?
  • For STEP grants, does the operational cost per vehicle mile documentation match the enforcement mileage rate proposed in the project budget?
  • Are out-of-town trips fully identified and justified in the proposal? Are they necessary and reasonable?
  • Are airfare, hotel and lodging costs consistent with the proposing agency and TxDOT policy?

Equipment and Supplies

  • Will any special equipment be needed? If so, will it be available for project implementation?
  • Does the proposal for equipment and office supplies provide an explanation for the budgeted items? Does the proposal describe the basis for its proposed unit costs? Is it historical or based on current price quotes?
  • Are the estimated quantity and/or unit prices reasonable and are the items necessary to fulfill project objectives?
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Other Costs

  • Are proposed PI&E purchases necessary, reasonable and consistent with the proposal to carry out program objectives?
  • Where indirect costs are proposed, has the agency attached to the proposal an indirect cost rate or cost allocation plan? Are there costs included in the indirect rate that could be charged directly elsewhere in the proposal? If there is doubt, has the agency been requested to demonstrate how it allocated these costs and how it segregated direct from indirect costs?
  • Where printing or copying of materials is proposed, does the proposing agency present any explanation and justification of the nature and quantity of materials to be printed or photocopied?
  • Are facility costs reasonable given the location of the facility and its proposed use? Are the costs of utilities and maintenance of the space broken out separately? If so, are these costs already included in the lease payment that the proposing agency will make and which it is already charging to the grant for the apportioned share of the space?
  • Are telephone, postage and insurance costs adequately identified in the proposal? Are they necessary, reasonable and consistent with the proposal’s problem solution?
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Modification Process

If a proposal requires modifications, the program/project manager assigned to the proposal will initiate the modification process. A due date is established each year to submit modifications.

If proposal modifications are necessary, the modification process is as follows:

  • The program/project manager sets the proposal to “Modifications in Process”.
  • The potential subgrantee logs into eGrants and accesses their proposal.
  • If the potential subgrantee agrees to suggested changes, they access the proposal pages and make the necessary modifications and submit the changes to TxDOT by choosing “Proposal Modifications Submitted” and clicking the "Change Status" button on the left side under the "Status Management" section of Proposal Menu.
  • If the potential subgrantee does not agree to suggested changes, they can withdraw their proposal by choosing “Proposal Withdrawn” and clicking the "Change Status" button on the left side under the "Status Management" section of Proposal Menu.
  • The proposals that are ready are pushed forward to “Approved” status and then to generate grant agreements. The proposals that still need modifications are not pushed forward until necessary changes are made.
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Process Overview

An overview of the eGrants proposal process can be found in the eGrants Proposal Process Workflow (flow chart).

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