USDOT Announces $905M in INFRA Awards

TUESDAY, JULY 6, 2021


Last Wednesday (June 30), U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $905.25 million worth of intended awards by the Biden-Harris Administration regarding the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

The federal funding is slated to be awarded to 24 projects in 18 states.

“These timely investments in our infrastructure will create jobs and support regional economies, while helping to spur innovation, confront climate change, and address inequities across the country,” said Buttigieg.

About INFRA, 2021 Changes

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.

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 also sought INFRA projects that addressed climate change and environmental justice.

Project applications were 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. In addition, projects were also 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 Biden administration has also added that applications were to be 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. This initiative included considerations regarding whether a project was located in a federally designated community development zone, such as qualified Opportunity Zones, Empowerment Zones, Promise Zones, or Choice Neighborhoods.

These types of projects are 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.

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

A NOFO for the funding opened to the public in mid-February and closed on March 19.

Proposed Awards

Slightly lower than 2020’s $906 million in funding for the nation’s infrastructure investments, this year the INFRA program has outlined $905.25 million in awards it recently proposed.

Awarding both small and large projects this year, the Department was instructed to award at least $25 million per large project and a minimum $5 million in grants per small project award. Under statutory requirements, 10% of available funds were reserved for small projects, with at least 25% of funding awarded to rural projects.

However, the USDOT was reported to have prioritized funding to rural areas to address historic underinvestment, reporting that approximately 44% would be awarded to rural projects, exceeding its traditional statutory requirements set by Congress by 19%. 

In total, the USDOT evaluated 157 eligible applications from 42 states, as well as Guam.  Applicants collectively requested approximately $6.8 billion in grant funds—more than seven times the funding available.

“These are awards that are going to create jobs by funding rail and highway projects that are economically critical to the region, and in some cases to the country,” said Buttigieg.

Several featured projects that align with the Administration’s priorities and provides critically needed funding for highway and freight projects of national or regional significance throughout America are as follows:

  • West Seattle Corridor Bridges Rehabilitation and Strengthening (Seattle): $11,250,600;
  • Dubuque Port and Rail Improvements (Dubuque, Iowa): $5 million;
  • The Community Infrastructure and Resiliency Zone (Los Angeles): $18 million;
  • Southport Berth Development and Port Expansion (Philadelphia): $49 million;
  • Northeast Georgia Inland Port (Hall County, Georgia): $46.9 million; and
  • Initiative for New Decks Essential for Economic Development (INDEED) Project (Maine): $45.2 million.

A full list of proposed project awards and project descriptions can be viewed, here.

   

Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Funding; Government; Government contracts; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Upcoming projects

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