In December 2014, the Michigan Rural Task Force (RTF) Program Advisory Board was created to improve allocation, obligation, distribution and carry-over in the RTF process. The Advisory Board’s responsibilities also include setting policy and goals for the statewide program and ensuring that the planning process is in compliance with transportation planning regulations. In early 2016, the RTF Program Advisory Board will begin rolling out materials to bring more transparency and equity to the way federal funds flow through Michigan’s 22 Rural Task Forces and 14 regional planning agencies (RPAs).

Key changes to be implemented include:

  • Guidelines and training to ensure RPAs are “on the same page” with MDOT in their guidance to local road and transit agencies.
  • A commitment to fund any active project described in a complete biddable package (CPB) and submitted by August 1st each year, which should end the occurrence of “lost” projects.
  • A change in the use of August redistribution obligation authority to first to fund any active CPB not funded before the year’s obligation authority ran out.
  • Policy change to ensure active STIP projects not bid-ready by August 1 will be pushed ahead to the next fiscal year – not dropped off the list.
  • An agreement that MDOT will continue to spend any unused obligation authority and redistributed funds before fiscal year end, crediting the statewide RTF account up to 5 percent in the next fiscal year.
  • Improved obligation data given to RTFs via the RPAs on every project, including allocation amount, obligation amount, bid amount and final amount.
  • An agreement to supply county and local spending targets each year in early November. The RTF Oversight Board will consider annual adjustments before targets are set.
  • An agreement that spending targets will reflect 95 percent of obligation authority in FY2017, which will be adjusted to 90 percent of that figure in FY2018. This will provide obligation authority for all active CPBs submitted by August 1 and avoid a “cascading” effect of larger-and-larger downward adjustments in future years.
  • A recommendation that each RTF maintain a list of contingency projects to better use year-end obligation.

Re-inventing how local federal obligation authority is distributed, while meeting FHWA and MDOT guidelines required teamwork, time and out-of-the-box thinking. All members involved in the Michigan RTF Oversight Board believe these changes will alleviate frustration and lack of transparency in the process.