DOT Expands Infrastructure Accelerator Program

WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2023


Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it will add $24 million in grants to expedite delivery of transportation infrastructure projects at the local and regional levels.

Issued through the Build America Bureau, the new funding will make the total investment in the Regional Infrastructure Accelerators Program to $34 million.

According to the release, the Bureau has issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity for grant applications to designate “Accelerators” that will serve defined geographic areas, provide technical resources, and fund planning and development activities to expedite project delivery.

“The Department is pleased to offer more grant funding for communities across the nation to move their transportation projects forward, connecting people to opportunities,” said Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg.

“These funds help regions better compete for discretionary grants through implementation of innovative solutions and potentially seek financing to accelerate delivery of those solutions.”

According to the department’s release, $10 million has previously been awarded to Accelerators nationwide, serving in a project development role that can focus resources, funding and expertise to expedite planning, development and delivery at the local and regional level.

Additionally, the Accelerators assist in project planning, evaluating innovative financing, accessing technical assistance and best practices and developing a pipeline of projects ready for investment. The Bureau administers multiple technical assistance programs, including the Accelerators Program, that aim to build capacity at local and regional levels to explore innovative funding, financing and delivery solutions.

“The 10 current Accelerators across the country have created capacity at local levels to explore effective and efficient solutions that are moving their critical infrastructure projects forward,” said Build America Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian.

“We are looking for more regions to build on the success of this program and develop a network of accelerators that can share best practices and take advantage of innovative delivery strategies.”

The Build America Bureau advances investment in transportation infrastructure by lending Federal funds to qualified borrowers; clearing roadblocks for credit worthy projects; and encouraging best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and operations.

Applications are due May 30.

Accelerating Infrastructure

In October of last year, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a new action plan to accelerate progress of infrastructure construction through the bipartisan infrastructure law. On Oct. 13, the White House hosted a summit for officials to discuss the new actions with an aim to improve coordination between state and local officials who directly account for 90% of the spending.

The action plan focuses on three main areas: delivering projects on time, staying on task and delivering projects on budget. Staying on task will also include equitable access and technical assistance, as well as workforce readiness and permitting.

The plan also builds on previous actions to speed up infrastructure project delivery, such as the Permitting Action Plan released in May 2022 and the Inflation Reduction Act signed back in August.

According to the Administration, key actions include:

  • Launching the Department of Transportation Project Delivery Center of Excellence to support and educate transportation infrastructure project managers from state, Tribal, local, and territorial governments in successful project planning and implementation;
  • Expanding the Federal Highway Administration’s highly successful Every Day Counts Program, a federal-state collaborative partnership which identifies and deploys new ways to accelerate the delivery of highway infrastructure, including innovations applicable to transit and rail projects; and
  • Launching a new “Dig Once” initiative for broadband, transportation and electrification projects to coordinate efforts, lower project costs and minimize disruptions.

The full action plan and its initiatives can be viewed here.

Permitting Action Plan

Back in May of 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration released a new Permitting Action Plan to accelerate federal permitting and environmental reviews for infrastructure projects funded through the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The action plan outlined the strategy to ensure that federal environmental reviews and permitting process are effective, efficient and transparent, while guided by the best available science to promote positive environmental and community outcomes. In turn, it hoped that these steps would help strengthen supply chains, lower costs and grow clean energy.

Additionally, the goal was to deliver long overdue infrastructure investments on task, on time and on budget without delays while promoting environmental goals. The action plan would reportedly result in better permitting outcomes, enhanced predictability for project sponsors and increased accountability.

According to the White House Fact Sheet, the Permitting Action plan was built on five key elements to help ensure timely and effectively delivery of infrastructure upgrades:

  • Accelerating smart permitting through early cross-agency coordination;
  • Establishing clear timeline goals and tracking key project information;
  • Engaging in early and meaningful outreach with states, tribal nations, territories and local communities;
  • Improving agency responsiveness, technical assistance and support; and
  • Using agency resources and environmental reviews to improve impact.

As part of the action plan, the Administration said it would leverage the interagency Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council’s expanded authorities under the bipartisan infrastructure law to improve coordination among agencies, help avoid and resolve potential conflicts and bottlenecks, identify and share best practices, and accelerate information sharing and troubleshooting.

This includes interagency coordination on siting, permitting, supply chain and related issues, as well as promoting efficient and timely reviews. This will be done in part by developing and preparing new approaches to permitting and environmentally review to help address common issues, eliminate duplication and incorporate a climate-smart approach.

The White House also planned to create permitting schedules with clear timeline goals that are both ambitious and realistic, contain relevant milestones and meet all requirements. To increase transparency and accountability, the Federal Permitting Dashboard will also track key project information, including these timelines and milestones.

There will also be a focus on consultation with communities to ensure that the public, including disadvantaged communities, will have opportunity to participate in decision-making. Agencies are expected to proactively partner and coordinate with relevant state, territorial and local governments.

   

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

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