DOT Announces $2.9B for Infrastructure Grants

THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022


Earlier this week, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $2.9 billion for competitive grants to improve U.S. transportation infrastructure as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Through the combined Notice of Funding Opportunity, state, regional and local governments will be able to apply for funding and increase the pipeline of “shovel-worthy” projects.

The Multimodal Projects Discretionary Grant opportunity is a combination of three major discretionary grant programs:

  • The National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program;
  • The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program; and
  • The Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (RURAL).

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our outdated infrastructure and invest in major projects for the future of our economy,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “Until now, we had limited ability to make awards beyond a certain level, or to support projects with funding from multiple federal grant programs.

“Under this approach and with a major infusion of new funding, we have the capacity to green-light more transformational projects that will create good-paying union jobs, grow the economy, and make our transportation system safer and more resilient.”   

According to the DOT’s release, the MEGA program was created in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs, providing grants on a competitive basis to support multijurisdictional or regional projects of significance that may also cut across multiple modes of transportation.

For this program, eligible projects could reportedly include highway, bridge, freight, port, passenger rail and public transportation projects. Additionally, the DOT explains that this could include bridges or tunnels connecting two states; new rail and transit lines that improve equity and reduce emissions; and freight hubs integrating ship, train and truck traffic while improving environmental justice.

The DOT plans to award 50% of funding to projects greater than $500 million in cost and 50% to projects greater than $100 million but less than $500 million in cost. This program will receive $1 billion this year and provide multi-year funding to projects.

For the INFRA program, projects are expected to improve safety, generate economic benefits, reduce congestion, enhance resiliency, eliminate supply chain bottlenecks and improve critical freight movements. The existing competitive grant program will see a more than 50% increase in this year’s funding because of the infrastructure bill and provide approximately $8 billion over five years, of which about $1.55 billion is made available through the NOFO.

Finally, for RURAL, grants will support projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth and improve quality of life. The DOT anticipated awarding up to $300 million In grants through the program, with $2 billion over the next five years.

Eligible projects reportedly include highway, bridge and tunnel projects that help improve freight, safety, and provide or increase access to an agricultural, commercial, energy or transportation facilities that support the economy of a rural area.

“Putting these three programs under a single NOFO makes it easier for communities to apply to one, two, or three major discretionary grant programs with a single application and common set of criteria,” wrote the department in its release. “The Department will make awards under the three grant programs consistent with each grant program’s statutory language and will focus on supporting projects that improve safety, economic competitiveness, equity, and climate and sustainability.”

Additionally, the DOT expects the single solicitation to allow for a more comprehensive view of projects in development across the country. The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 23.

Infrastructure Bill Details

With the goal of rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, as well as funding new climate resilience and broadband initiatives, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act reportedly serves to deliver a key component in President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Projects approved in the legislation, according to the White House’s Fact Sheet, will include:

  • Delivering clean water to all American families and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines ($55 billion);
  • Ensuring access to reliable high-speed internet ($65 billion);
  • Repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and safety ($110 billion);
  • Improving transportation options for millions of Americans and reduce greenhouse emissions through the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history ($89.9 billion);
  • Upgrading airports and ports to strengthen supply chains and prevent disruptions that cause inflation, also creating jobs and reducing emissions ($17 billion);
  • Making the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak ($66 billion);
  • Building a national network of electric vehicle chargers ($7.5 billion);
  • Upgrading power infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy and deploy energy technology to achieve a zero-emissions future ($65 billion);
  • Making infrastructure resilient against the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks and extreme weather events ($50 billion); and
  • Delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines and capping orphaned oil and gas wells ($21 billion).

The White House also reports that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, alongside the Build Back Framework, will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next ten years.

“Tonight, we took a monumental step forward as a nation,” President Biden said in a statement following the 228-206 vote. “The United States House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a once-in-generation bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create millions of jobs, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st Century.

“I’m also proud that a rule was voted on that will allow for passage of my Build Back Better Act in the House of Representatives the week of Nov. 15. The Build Back Better Act will be a once-in-a-generation investment in our people.”

As potential effects of climate change woe the world, the legislation has recognized that nearly 75% of the nation’s electricity can be accounted for in both its residential and commercial structures, such as housing, stores and offices.

To mitigate the high usage, the Build Better Plan has dedicated roughly $5 billion to various programs aimed at reducing electricity use in buildings, improving building materials and training on design, construction and maintenance for energy-efficient structures.

The bill will also fund a series of problem-solving programs, for issues varying from drafty windows in affordable housing complexes to aged air ducts and outdated building codes.

According to reports, the largest chunk of the $5 billion will be utilized for the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which aids structures owned or occupied by people with low incomes. The legislation is expected to provide a $3.5 billion infusion for the program, which will be used to fund upgrades such as insulation, windows, roofing, and heating and cooling devices.

Though seemingly minor, the upgrades are expected to result in sizable energy savings.

Later in November, the White House announced that President Biden named former New Orleans Mayor Landrieu as senior advisor responsible for the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Landrieu served as the mayor of New Orleans from 2010-2018, during Hurricane Katrina recovery and the BP Oil Spill. According to the White House statement, in that time he fast-tracked over 100 projects and secured billions in federal funding for roads, schools, hospitals, parks and critical infrastructure.

“He also knows what it’s like to lead at the state level and will be able to work with and relate to governors and other state officials,” stated the White House press release. “And he has strong relationships in the business and labor communities, which will be essential in carrying out this job.”

At the beginning of the year, Landrieu reached out to state leaders at the beginning of the month encouraging them to appoint their own infrastructure coordinators to implement the $1.2 trillion law.

The three-page letter, sent to all the nation’s governors on Jan. 4, requested that they appoint a “high-level” representative to serve as the state’s own Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator. Landrieu also reportedly suggested that governors create task forces modeled after the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force created by President Biden in November.

The role of these positions will help integrate aspects of the bill, including funding, alongside departments responsible for transportation, water, broadband and energy investments for projects.

In February, the White House released the first edition of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law guidebook that contains a comprehensive list of the more than 375 programs and available funding included in the law.

Acting as a “roadmap” for the funding available under the law, as well as an explanatory document that shows direct federal spending at the program level, the 465-page guidebook outlines 12 chapters grouping the programs by area.

According to the release, more than $80 billion has been allocated to states from formula and competitive programs for roads and highways, bridges, ports, airports and water systems. Additional programs, including for high speed internet, electric vehicle chargers, energy grid updates and clean energy, are in the process of being implemented.

Of the 375 programs, 125 are new, with 60% of the funds are available through formula and 40% are through competitive applications. Future phases of the guidebook are expected to update dates and timelines for program implementation, best practices, case studies and links to key resources.

Earlier this month, Congress passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus bill that will fund federal agencies for the remainder of fiscal year 2022, including $775 million for infrastructure funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

The 2,741-page bill includes $81.038 billion for FY2022 for the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies. Of that funding, $775 million will go towards national infrastructure investments.

No less than $20 million is expected to be awarded to projects in historically disadvantaged communities or areas of persistent poverty, as well as equitable geographic distribution to address needs in rural, urban and Tribal communities. 

   

Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Government; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Transportation

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