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14 Estimating Soft Costs for Major Public Transportation Fixed Guideway Projects ROD = Record of Decision FFGA = Full Funding Grant Agreement Exhibit 5. Phases in FTA New Starts process timeline. Specific federal requirements trigger the estimation of soft costs, such as the project evaluations required at each stage before approval to enter the next stage of project development. In addition, the ongoing requirements trig- project oversight and evaluation process requires additional project support efforts that are included ger the estimation in soft costs. These include, for example, project performance measure reporting, financial plan- of soft costs, such ning, environmental impact review, and stakeholder outreach efforts. as the project eval- FTA first asks grantees for an estimate of project cost, including soft costs, before they allow the project to enter into PE. This initial estimate is typically a rough approximation. Sponsors uations required at usually issue a cost estimate once the project is in the PE phase as well, where again the soft cost each stage before estimates are typically conceptual in nature. Later, if and when the project progresses into final approval to enter design, estimates of project cost become more accurate and well developed as the project itself becomes better defined. Chapter 5 describes how the industry normally estimates soft costs at the next stage of these stages. project develop- ment. In addition, Characteristics of the Federal Process the ongoing project That Affect Soft Costs oversight and The FTA's New Starts (and Small Starts) process affects soft costs in several ways. evaluation process First, as the project advances into PE, the FTA typically has discretion over when "the clock starts" requires additional and early planning costs begin to be attributed to the project. Many New Starts candidate projects project support grow out of broad transportation planning activities covering an entire metropolitan region, or an alternatives analysis analyzing a range of modes and projects within a transportation corridor. efforts, which are Because of this, the time at which a general planning activity becomes a singular project with included in soft a Locally Preferred Alternative is not always clear. Any costs incurred before FTA approves a costs. grantee to enter PE are not included in a Full Funding Grant Agreement and the project's SCC estimate. Because the FTA helps pinpoint this time, the federal process can "define in or out" some early soft costs.