In 2005 FTA implemented a new capital costing format, the Standard Cost Categories, to establish a consistent format for the reporting, estimating, and managing of capital costs for New Starts projects. The cost information gathered from projects across the country was intended to generate a database and a cost estimating resource, useful to FTA and the transit industry alike. The thought was that a shared database would create greater transparency in our industry regarding capital costs, and a greater knowledge base of reasonable cost ranges. These should in turn improve the reliability of cost estimates. The database is still in a state of becoming.
The Standard Cost Category worksheets are a project management tool. They are “project-based,” as opposed to grant-based. Over the life of an individual project, the consistent format should make it easier to track, evaluate and control cost changes.
While the SCC worksheets provide a fundamental project management tool for New Start projects, an important part of operationalizing the Standard Cost Categories, is creating a simple interface with TEAM, FTA’s Grants Management System. A “crosswalk” was developed between the SCC and the Scopes and ALIs that make up TEAM grant budgets. To the extent possible, one pair of TEAM Scopes/ALIs was directly matched with one SCC category. There was overwhelmingly positive support among FTA headquarters and regional staff and project sponsors for tracking grants in TEAM at the "top ten" level:
- “For oversight purposes, grant amendments, we already manage at the scope level. The proposed change would eliminate the budget revisions on the individual line items. This "top ten" structure. . .is more flexible. . . An amendment to the grant would still be triggered when an amount changes in the "top ten.”
- “The ten categories in TEAM are ok for New Starts, for the reasons we've discussed -- milestones, progress, costs are dealt with in much greater depth in quarterly meetings, PMOC reports, etc. Just use the Paper Clip to attach the SCC Main Worksheet to TEAM. This will give the grantees and staff the supporting documentation they need and the means for them to access the details. . . And by simplifying into the top ten, you bring more consistency across all projects in all regions. Future queries will be able to give better results.”
- “FTA will get better information on how the grant money is spent if it is easier to work in TEAM.”
- “Now we work our way around budget revisions to avoid doing them.”
- “Since the project management tools for New Starts projects are so good -- PMOC reports, quarterly reports etc, you can keep the costs in TEAM simple.”
- “It will significantly reduce the paperwork required!”