The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) is a federal program that funds projects and programs that improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. It is jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For FY 2022, 2023, and 2024, it is estimated that the SJTPO region will be allocated $1.9 million in CMAQ funding per year that will be programed into the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). These funds will be available for projects and programs throughout the SJTPO region via a competitive process. Candidate projects and programs may be submitted to SJTPO for eligibility review. Eligible applications are then ranked by the CMAQ Selection Committee, and projects selected for funding are to be implemented by the sponsoring agency.
Who can apply?
CMAQ funds are available for projects involving government, non-profit, and private entities that serve the SJTPO region. Additionally, public agencies must be certified eligible to receive federal funds through NJDOT. Private firms and non-profits may partner with a public agency sponsor through a process called Public-Private Partnership (PPP). CMAQ projects submitted by PPPs must benefit the general public by reducing emissions while not creating a competitive advantage of one private entity over another. More information on PPPs may be found in Section VII.C. of the federal CMAQ guidance. Private individuals are not eligible to apply.
What information is required on an application?
Proposals for CMAQ funding should include a precise description of the project, providing information on its size, scope, location, and timetable. The application should specify what supporting data or other materials will be submitted to SJTPO, with a submission schedule, in the event that the project is selected. This description should be as specific as possible, for example, by citing the location and timing of traffic counts, or submission dates for required products of the federal aid program. Applicants should also certify their familiarity with the NJDOT Local Aid process and describe previous experience in obtaining USDOT funding. Applications should also include a cost estimate detailing how much CMAQ funding is being requested for each phase of the project, and exactly how the CMAQ funding will be spent.
If any preliminary work has been done, such as conceptual design or planning, this information should be included with the application as well.
An assessment of the project’s expected emission reduction benefits should be completed prior to project selection to better inform the selection of CMAQ projects. Wherever possible, quantitative analyses of emissions impacts should be included in the proposal. The analysis should report, at minimum, the reduction in ozone precursors (NOx and VOC) in kilograms per day or per year, along with the expected lifespan of the emission reduction. Additional pollutants, including carbon monoxide or particulate matter may be reported as well. Qualitative assessments of emission benefits may be provided only when it is not possible to accurately quantify emission benefits; for example, for projects focused on public education, marketing, and other outreach efforts. Groups of complimentary projects may be analyzed together. Emission increases for any type of pollutant (including carbon monoxide or particulate matter) must be reported, if present. Details regarding emissions estimation may be found in Section VIII.A of the FHWA CMAQ Guidance.
SJTPO can assist applicants in calculating emissions reduction estimates for many types of projects. Please request emissions estimate assistance well in advance of the application deadline.
What types of projects are eligible for CMAQ Funds
In general, projects are eligible for CMAQ funding consideration if they are intended to reduce emissions in the region, either through direct means (such as converting to low-emission vehicles) or through indirect means (such as traffic signal improvements that improve vehicle flow and reduce congestion, or outreach programs to promote carpooling). The air quality benefits of projects should be well-supported by recent evidence of their effects on emissions; however, innovative projects without supporting precedent data may also be considered.
The following types of projects are listed as eligible in the CMAQ Interim Program Guidance. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, as other transportation projects that reduce emissions may be eligible. Many project types are eligible only under certain conditions. Please refer to the Interim Program Guidance for more details on any of the following project types.
These efforts are defined as vehicle replacement, repowering (replacing an engine with a cleaner diesel engine, alternative fuels, etc.), rebuilding an engine, or other technologies determined by the EPA as appropriate for reducing emissions from diesel engines. Diesel engine retrofits are noted in the guidance as typically being cost-effective.
Idle reduction projects must primarily benefit the SJTPO area, and both on-board (i.e. auxiliary power units, direct fired heaters, etc.) and off-board projects may be considered.
Three subcategories are identified in the guidance:
- Traditional Improvements – Traditional traffic flow improvements, such as the construction of roundabouts, HOV lanes, left-turn or other managed lanes, are eligible for CMAQ funding provided they demonstrate net emissions benefits through congestion relief.
- Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – Regional multimodal traveler information systems, traffic signal control systems, freeway management systems, electronic toll-collection systems, transit management systems, incident management programs, and other ITS projects are eligible.
- Value/Congestion Pricing – Congestion pricing is a market-based mechanism that allows tolls or parking pricing to rise and fall depending on available capacity and demand.
Freight projects that reduce emissions fall generally into two categories: primary efforts that target emissions directly or secondary projects that reduce net emissions. Successful primary projects could include new diesel engine technology or retrofits of vehicles or engines. Secondary projects reduce emissions through modifications or additions to infrastructure and the ensuing modal shift.
TCMs are strategies that will reduce transportation-related emissions by reducing vehicle use or improving traffic flow. Examples include improved public transit, traffic flow improvements and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, shared ride services, pedestrian/bicycle facilities, and flexible work schedules.
Projects that would increase transit capacity and ridership are eligible, including new transit facilities, new vehicles, diesel engine retrofits, operating assistance for new or expanded transit service, and other transit projects.
Including the construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities that are not exclusively recreational (as they must reduce vehicle trips and therefore vehicle emissions), outreach promoting safe bicycle use, and other bicycle and pedestrian programs.
TDM includes activities that focus on physical assets and services that provide real-time information on network performance and support better decision-making for travelers choosing modes, times, routes, and locations. Eligible activities must be aimed at reducing single-occupancy vehicle travel, and include fringe parking, traveler information services, shuttle services, guaranteed ride home programs, carpools and vanpools, traffic calming measures, parking pricing, variable road pricing, telecommuting and teleworking, employer-based commuter choice programs, and other TDM projects.
Outreach to educate the public, community leaders, and potential project sponsors about connections among trip making and transportation mode choices, traffic congestion, and air quality. Public education and outreach can help communities reduce emissions and congestion by inducing drivers to change their transportation choices.;
TMAs are organizations that promote rideshare programs, transit, shuttles, or other measures. Eligible expenses include TMA start-up costs and up to 5 years of operating assistance.
Includes activities related to marketing existing, expanded, or new carpools and vanpools, as well as capital costs including purchasing or leasing vans for use in vanpools and eligible operating expenses.
These efforts involve the pooling of efficient, low-emission vehicles, provided to travelers who have occasional need for a vehicle but not the constant, daily necessity that demands ownership.
Such projects include retrofitting vehicles and fleets with water and oil heaters and installing electrical outlets and equipment in publicly owned garages or fleet storage facilities.
Such projects include training and educational development for the transportation workforce that will results in emissions reductions.
Projects must establish either publicly or privately owned I&M facilities. Eligible activities include construction of facilities, purchase of equipment, I&M program development, and one-time start-up activities, such as updating quality assurance software or developing a mechanic training curriculum.
Projects that are intended to reduce emissions but do not yet have supporting data may be eligible. FHWA has supported and funded some of these projects as demonstrations to determine their benefits and costs. Such innovative strategies are not intended to bypass the definition of basic project eligibility, but seek to better define the projects’ future role in strategies to reduce emissions.
Program funds may be used to support projects involving the alternative or renewable fuels. Typically, stand-alone purchase of any fuel – alternative or otherwise – is not an eligible CMAQ cost. Generally, CMAQ support for alternative fuel vehicle projects can be broken into the following areas:
- Infrastructure – Except as noted below, establishing publicly owned fueling facilities and other infrastructure needed to fuel alternative-fuel vehicles is an eligible expense, unless privately-owned fueling stations are in place and reasonably accessible. Fueling facilities can dispense one or more of the alternative fuels identified in section 301 of the 1992 Energy Policy Act or biodiesel, or provide recharging for electric vehicles. Additionally, CMAQ funds may support converting a private fueling facility to support alternative fuels through a public-private partnership agreement.
- Non-transit vehicles – The CMAQ funds may be used to purchase publicly-owned alternative fuel vehicles, including passenger vehicles, service trucks, street cleaners, and others. However, only publicly owned vehicles providing a dominant transportation function can be fully funded, such as paratransit vans, incident management support vehicles, refuse haulers, and others. Costs associated with converting fleets to run on alternative fuels are also eligible. When non-transit vehicles are purchased through PPPs, only the cost difference between the alternative fuel vehicles and comparable conventional fuel vehicles is eligible. Such vehicles should be fueled by one of the alternative fuels identified in section 301 of the 1992 Energy Policy Act or biodiesel. Eligible projects also include alternatives to diesel engines and vehicles. Alternative fuel vehicle projects that are implemented as diesel retrofits and involve the replacement of an operable engine – not a standard fleet turnover – are eligible.
- Hybrid vehicles – Certain hybrid vehicles that have lower emissions rates than their non-hybrid counterparts may be eligible for CMAQ investment. Projects involving heavier vehicles, including refuse haulers and delivery trucks, also may be appropriate for program support. Eligibility should be based on a comparison of the emissions projections of these larger candidate vehicles and other comparable models.
For more detail on any of the above project types, and for a list of ineligible project types, refer to the CMAQ Interim Program Guidance.
For vehicle acquisitions, only the incremental cost of the difference in price between the alternative-fueled vehicle and a comparable conventional fuel vehicle will be covered. The estimated eligible portion of future vehicle purchases must be prorated based on the projected share of costs attributable to generating air quality benefits.
CMAQ-funded projects should have independent utility; that is, they must have standalone emissions benefits that do not depend upon other uncompleted projects.
FAST Act directs MPOs to give priority to cost-effective projects; that is, projects with the greatest emissions reduction per dollar funded. Secondary benefits may also be considered in the selection process, but the primary criteria will be the unit cost of the emissions reduction. Secondary selection factors include congestion relief, greenhouse gas reductions, safety, system preservation, access to opportunity, sustainable development and freight, reduced single-occupancy vehicle reliance, multimodal benefits, and others.
SJTPO CMAQ Project Selection Process
Following the application deadline, applications will be selected via a competitive process. The steps in the selection process are as follow:
- SJTPO staff reviews applications for clarity, completeness, and CMAQ eligibility.
- Applications are evaluated & ranked by the CMAQ Selection Committee established by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) based upon the following goals:
- Air Quality Benefit
- Preferred Project Type
Details on the application scoring criteria may be found on the CMAQ Proposal Evaluation here
- The CMAQ Selection Committee forwards its recommended project list to TAC, which then prepares a recommended program for the SJTPO Policy Board.
- The SJTPO Policy Board acts upon the TAC-endorsed CMAQ project list.
After final approval and notification of CMAQ award, the sponsor is responsible for implementing and completing the project. This includes any public involvement, planning, design, construction, etc. All project phases are eligible for CMAQ funds, and costs are 100% reimbursable. Projects not implemented in a timely manner run the risk of losing funds. In the case of an uncompleted project, the return of any federal funds expended might be required.