The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has created a new transportation project grant program that replaces the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) Grants program and makes $1.5 billion available and aims to use investment from private industry.
The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program, USDOT reports, aims to advance the FASTLANE program by using “updated criteria to evaluate projects to align them with national and regional economic vitality goals and to leverage additional non-federal funding.”
USDOT announced the program through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in the Federal Register on June 29. The NOFO will remain open for 120 days.
Another goal of the INFRA program is to use public-private partnerships to increase funding availability, speed up permitting and construction time, promote safety solutions and apply performance and accountability guidelines to projects.
“The president and the department are committed to revitalizing, repairing and rebuilding America’s aging infrastructure,” says Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “By ensuring the right incentives, projects selected under this program will be better able to make significant, long-term improvements to America’s transportation infrastructure.”
The INFRA program will award grants to large projects at a level of at least $25 million and small projects of at least $5 million. Only 10 percent of available INFRA funds each fiscal year will go toward small projects.
At least 25 percent of the funding will go to rural projects, a previous requirement mandated under the 2015 FAST Act.
“The administration understands that rural needs may well exceed this limit, and the department will consider rural projects to the greatest extent possible,” USDOT says. “For rural communities in need of funding for highway and multimodal freight projects with national or regional economic significance, INFRA is an opportunity to apply directly for financial assistance from the federal government. For these communities, USDOT will consider an applicant’s resource constraints when assessing the leverage criterion.”
USDOT also says it is “specifically focused” on projects that have local sponsors “significantly invested” in them and projects in which construction is ready to “proceed rapidly.” Projects to be deemed eligible for INFRA grants, USDOT reports, 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.
The department says entities who have submitted previous FASTLANE applications can reapply for the INFRA program by filling out the FY17-18 INFRA Repeat Application Form here, and must provide explanation of how the project meets the new program’s criteria.