USDOT Announces $900M in INFRA Grants
Secretary for the United States Department of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, recently announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity totaling more than $900 million in grants through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grants program.
The department reports that there is $906 million available for the nation’s infrastructure investments.
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.
“The nation’s industry depends on the transportation network to move the goods that it produces, and facilitate the movements of the workers who are responsible for that production,” according to the Notice of Funding Opportunity.
“When the nation’s highways, railways and ports function well, that infrastructure connects people to jobs, increases the efficiency of delivering goods and thereby cuts the costs of doing business, reduces the burden of commuting and improves overall well-being.”
The grant program works by utilizing select criteria in order 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 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.
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 program also incentivizes project sponsors to pursue innovative strategies, including public-private partnerships and holds recipients accountable for their performance in project delivery and operations.
Recent Funding Awards
Back in April, USDOT announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity also totaling $900 million in grants, but provided through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary (BUILD) Grants program.
These grants are intended for use toward roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or other forms of intermodal transportation. The program also allows for special consideration to projects that emphasize better access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation in rural communities, however.
Special consideration criteria include projects that plan to improve the condition of infrastructure, address public health and safety, promote regional connectivity, facilitate economic growth or competitiveness, deploy broadband as part of an eligible transportation project or promote energy independence.
Municipalities will also have to make sure that projects seeking funding are planned to encompass safety, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, quality of life, innovation and partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders.
The maximum grant award during this round of BUILD grants will be $25 million, with no more than $90 million awarded to an individual state.
By November, USDOT announced that 50% of the grant funding went to projects in rural areas, while six projects won the maximum $25 million grant amount, including: a highway interchange in Aurora, Colorado; bridge work in Providence, Rhode Island; road reconstruction in Houston; a marine terminal in Anchorage, Alaska; dam mitigation and a recreation trail in Des Moines, Iowa; and the replacement of a bridge in Augusta, Maine.
According to the Engineering News-Record, the roads category received the highest amount of funding, totaling 38 grants. Additionally, six transit projects won 10.9% of the total funding, three railing projects won 5.5% and one aviation project won 1.8%.
What’s Happening Now
According to the press release from USDOT, the Department intends to award at least 25% of INFRA grant funding to rural projects involving highway and multimodal freight projects that have a national or regional economic significance.
Another 10% of the funding has been reserved for small projects, which if awarded, will receive at least $5 million. The rest of the available funding will be split up between large projects, which are slated to receive a minimum of $25 million per awarded project.
Applications for the grants will be accepted through Feb. 25.