FHWA Opens Grants for Projects Addressing Climate Change

$848 Million Available for Surface Transportation Initiatives
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Butigieg, shown at an infrastructure event in San Francisco in January, says, "We will help ensure that our roads, bridges and highways are resilient enough to withstand extreme weather." (Benjamin Fanjoy/Bloomberg News)

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State and local government levels are encouraged to apply for federal grants from a $848 million project to make surface transportation such as roads, bridges and ports more resilient to extreme weather and climate change.

“Climate change threatens not just our lives and livelihoods, but the infrastructure we rely on every day,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said April 21. “With these grants, we will help ensure that our roads, bridges and highways are resilient enough to withstand extreme weather and will create good-paying jobs along the way.”

The Federal Highway Administration opened applications with an Aug. 18 deadline for the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) discretionary grant program.

FHWA stated in its grant notice that PROTECT projects have the potential to demonstrate innovation and best practices for other states and localities to use as models.

Shailen Bhatt


PROTECT will fund surface transportation projects (highways, public transportation, pedestrian facilities, ports and intercity passenger rail) that prioritize innovative and collaborative approaches to lower negative impacts of climate change and extreme weather resulting from flooding, erosion, wave damage and excessive heat.

“Every community in America knows the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, whether that means record rainfall in California, flooding up and down the Mississippi River; hurricanes venturing as far south as Puerto Rico and as far north as Delaware or wildfires not limited to a defined season and becoming instead a constant threat to more and more Americans,” FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said.

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The federal investment “to ensure our infrastructure is built to withstand more frequent and unpredictable extreme weather is critical for communities counting on a road or bridge to be open for first responders, and it is critical for a business that must get its essential goods to shelves,” Bhatt added.

According to the FHWA grant notice, selected projects “should be grounded in the best available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts and vulnerabilities.” Another required element is that projects support continued operation or rapid recovery of crucial local, regional or national surface transportation facilities. “Furthermore, selected projects should utilize innovative and collaborative approaches to risk reduction, including the use of natural infrastructure, which is explicitly eligible under the program,” the notice stated.

FHWA is encouraging all eligible government and tribal entities regardless of size, location and experience administering federal grants to apply for the PROTECT funding.

To help PROTECT applications be successful, FHWA included two checklists for applicants of resilience improvement grants and for project planning grants under the program.

FHWA has funded $7.3 billion in past PROTECT grants that helped provide funds for designing how to raise above the floodplain a 2-mile stretch of road in Kentucky and elevating Louisiana Highway 1 to be make it more resilient to flooding during extreme weather events across the Gulf of Mexico.

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