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USDOT Heralds 2021 INFRA Grants, Changes

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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Last Wednesday (Feb. 17), the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it was officially seeking applicants for its Fiscal Year 2021 round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

The competitive program has allotted approximately $889 million in funding and includes some new criteria for states, cities and other applicants, made by the Biden administration.

About INFRA

Established to advance a grant program created through the FAST Act of 2015, INFRA aims to help rebuild aging infrastructure in America by offering applications for financial assistance from the federal government.

INFRA grants may be used to cover as much as 60% of a project’s costs. Applicants can supplement INFRA grant money with other federal funding, but total federal funding can be no more than 80% of total costs.

“INFRA grants will fund transportation projects of national and regional significance that are in line with the Biden Administration’s priorities including creating good-paying jobs, improving safety, applying transformative technology, and explicitly addressing climate change and racial equity,” the USDOT wrote.

Oleksandr Filon / Getty Images

Last Wednesday (Feb. 17), the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it was officially seeking applicants for its Fiscal Year 2021 round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

Traditionally, the grant program works by utilizing select criteria to promote projects with national and regional economic vitality goals while leveraging non-federal funding to increase the total investment by state, local and private partners. Eligible projects would include highway freight corridors on the National Highway Freight Network, highway or bridge projects on the National Highway System and projects expected to increase capacity on Interstates and other intermodal or rail projects.

However, while supporting the economic vitality at national and regional levels is the USDOT’s top propriety, this year the Department is also seeking INFRA projects that address climate change and environmental justice. Project applications are slated to be evaluated on support strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as whether they were planned as part of a comprehensive strategy to address climate change.

Projects will also be rated on the extent that they apply innovative technology, delivery, or financing methods with proven outcomes to deliver projects in a cost-effective manner. 

"The new areas of interest for INFRA are consistent with the values and priorities of the Biden administration and I am certain there will be no lack of worthy projects that can meet its new criteria," said Susan Howard, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' program director for transportation finance.

In addition, the Biden administration has added that applications will also be considered based on racial equity, to the extent that project sponsors have completed equity-focused community outreach, and projects are designed to improve connections to underserved communities to reduce barriers to opportunity. The Department will also consider whether the project is located in a federally designated community development zone, including qualified Opportunity Zones, Empowerment Zones, Promise Zones, or Choice Neighborhoods.

These types of projects are also suggested to be positioned to proceed quickly to the construction phase where project costs may include reconstruction, rehabilitation, acquisition of property (including land related to the project and improvements to the land), environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, equipment acquisition and operational improvements directly related to system performance. The projects should also have local sponsors significantly invested.

“As we work to recover and emerge from this devastating pandemic stronger than before, now is the time to make lasting investments in our nation’s infrastructure,” said Secretary Buttigieg.

“We are committed to not just rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, but building back in a way that positions American communities for success in the future—creating good paying jobs, boosting the economy, ensuring equity, and tackling our climate crisis. The INFRA grant program is a tremendous opportunity to help achieve these goals."

The Department plans to award both small and large projects this year, with at least $25 million awarded per large project and a minimum $5 million in grants per small project award. Under statutory requirements, 10% of available funds are reserved for small projects, and at least 25% of funding must be awarded to rural projects.

A final change this year, the Notice of Funding Opportunity also highlights the creation of the “INFRA Extra” Program, which will identify competitive INFRA applicants who do not receive an INFRA award and authorize them to seek a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) loan up to 49% of their project cost.

The NOFO will remain open through March 19.

   

Tagged categories: Climate Control; Funding; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Transportation

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