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The U.S. Department of Transportation announced it is making $889 million available through its latest round of Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grants.
The agency announced Feb. 17 it is seeking applicants for the fiscal 2021 round of the discretionary grant program that funds transportation projects of national and regional significance.
In addition to improving safety, the grants are meant to spur economic development and create jobs. As another financial consideration, DOT’s notice mentions that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on state and local government budgets, presenting challenges for funding infrastructure projects.
“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 Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
For the selection process, DOT has placed an emphasis on INFRA projects that address climate change and environmental justice. Projects will be assessed on factors such as whether they were planned as part of a comprehensive strategy to address climate change or whether they support practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such practices include deploying zero-emissions vehicle infrastructure and encouraging a reduction in vehicle miles traveled. Another factor for INFRA projects will be racial equity. Considerations include whether project sponsors have completed equity-focused community outreach and if projects are designed to benefit underserved communities. DOT will also consider whether projects are located in federally designated community development zones, such as Opportunity Zones. DOT defines Opportunity Zones as “economically distressed” communities designated by the state’s governor and certified by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
“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,” Buttigieg said.
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According to DOT’s notice, the agency is seeking projects that use innovative technology or financing methods to deliver projects in a cost effective manner. Awards will be granted to both large and small projects. The INFRA grant must be at least $25 million for a large project and at least $5 million for a small project. Some 10% of available funds are reserved for small projects.
DOT must award at least 25% of INFRA funding to rural projects — a decrease from the 50% typically devoted to funding rural projects during the Trump administration.
The agency’s Notice of Funding Opportunity announces the creation of the INFRA Extra initiative, which will identify competitive applicants who do not receive an INFRA grant and authorize them to seek a loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
DOT’s announcement indicates the Notice of Funding Opportunity will remain open through March 19.
INFRA grants were created in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. According to DOT, the agency receives hundreds of INFRA applications each year. Past award winners include the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which received a $71.4 million grant to construct the Greenville Bypass Freight Corridor.
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