California Department of Transportation

Project Development Workflow Tasks (PDWT)

Part 3 - Identify Project Need and Project Initiation Document

II. Project Initiation Document

C. Draft Agreements (WBS 205.) - Preliminary Cooperative Agreement (WBS 205.35)

P62. Request/Prepare Preliminary Cooperative Agreement

A Cooperative Agreement is defined as any formal, legally binding contract between the State of California and a city, county, or any other public non-State entity whereby the parties to the Agreement agree to either share in the costs of or cooperate jointly in a project. A Cooperative Agreement outlines the responsibilities and respective obligations of the parties to the Agreement, such as liability, ownership, right of way, utilities, maintenance, relinquishments, etc. A project may require more than one agreement to cover any combination of planning, design, right of way acquisition, or construction phases. A common type of Cooperative Agreement is for sharing the cost of project construction and development between the State and a local agency (city or county).

Every effort should be made to identify cooperative features as early as possible during the project initiation document phase, particularly by the Project Delivery Team (PDT) where coordination and communication take place with local agencies affected by the project. The PID, Draft Project Report, or Project Report is usually the documents that authorize a Cooperative Agreement. If a Cooperative Agreement is needed to agree to either share in or cooperate jointly in project development costs, then a Cooperative Agreement should be approved before entering the PA&ED phase. (Note that for Minor projects, the Cooperative Agreement must be approved when the Project is approved.) If a Cooperative Agreement is needed for other cooperative features, then the PID can simply note the need for such an agreement.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Letter of Understanding or Letter of Intent with the local agency may be prepared in advance of a Cooperative Agreement to reach conceptual agreement on project scope, funding, staffing and processing. It is important to remember that a MOU only constitutes intentions and policies of the parties involved. A MOU is not a funding or programming commitment nor is it a legally binding contract. It is therefore recommended that, whenever possible, the Districts utilize a formal Cooperative Agreement instead of a MOU. Proposals for lead agency role and staffing responsibilities up to and through approval of the environmental document should be clearly outlined in the PID. Staffing responsibilities for the design, right of way, and construction phases should be covered in the PID in a general way, with refinement in later documents.

Cooperative Agreements are prepared and processed by or under the direction of the District Local Assistance Office (LAO) or Cooperative Agreements Office (CAO). When there is need for a Cooperative Agreement or MOU, the project engineer and project manager should meet with a representative of the LAO/CAO. In some Districts, the project engineer will be responsible for preparing a draft Cooperative Agreement, and the LAO/CAO will provide support. The project engineer may also be responsible for obtaining the review and approval of the local agency involved. The LAO/CAO will instruct the project engineer as to which standardized Cooperative Agreement form is to be used, and will support the project engineer through its completion. In some Districts, the entire Cooperative Agreement is prepared and processed by the LAO/CAO, in which case the project engineer will be asked to provide the project specific information needed for the Cooperative Agreement.

Time Constraints:

Preparation of a Draft Cooperative Agreement outlining the intent of the parties involved can generally be accomplished in a few days; however, the review and approval process may take many months. Typically, a joint-funding Cooperative Agreement will require four months to process and approve, as sufficient time is needed by the local agency for their reviews of draft documents.


PDPM, (Chapter 16, “Cooperative Agreements")

Cooperative Agreement Manual

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This page last updated November 20, 2010