The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has selected 24 highway, bridge, port and other infrastructure projects in 18 states to share $905.3 million in the latest round of its popular Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA, grant program.
The INFRA grants were in great demand. In a June 30 Zoom call for reporters, DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the department received 157 eligible applications from 42 states and Guam. They sought a total of $6.8 billion, far more than the funds it had available.
INFRA grants provide only a portion of a project’s total cost. States, cities and other recipients supplement the grants with their own funds or other financial resources.
[View one-page descriptions of DOT's proposed selected projects here.]
Buttigieg said, “These are awards that are going to create jobs by funding rail and highway projects that are economically critical to the region, and in some cases to the country.”
He noted that the new batch of grants for the first time included racial equity and climate factors among the selection criteria.
Buttigieg also said that 44% of the total awarded goes for projects in rural areas, addressing the "historic underinvestment" in such locations.
The largest proposed grant in the 2021 round is $92.4 million to the city of Wenatchee, Wash., for a group of road improvement projects.
Interstate highway upgrades were among the winning projects. They include $86 million for improvements to Interstate-80 in Yolo County, Calif.; $70 million to the Indiana DOT for interchange reconstruction and expansion of I-465 and I-69 northeast of Indianapolis.
Also on the list of proposed grants are $61.6 million to the South Dakota DOT for rebuilding a stretch of I-90 and $60 million to the Texas DOT for improvements to a section of I-35.
The city of Seattle was selected for $11.3 million to repair the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge—closed last year because of structural problems—and the Spokane Street Swing Bridge adjacent to it. Work is to include replacing damaged bridge decks, expansion joints and sections of barriers, DOT said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also participated in the call, said that one of the two projects from his city chosen for grants adheres to DOT's new climate criteria.
That $30-million grant, to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, aims to speed the movement of traffic in a congested area where two freeways merge. Garcetti said unclogging that choke point will reduce vehicle emissions.
Buttigieg also set the INFRA awards in the broader context of infrastructure funding, especially the recent announcement of a deal between President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on a wide-ranging infrastructure outline.
Buttigieg said the INFRA grantees are “examples of what we could replicate at a greater scale" if Congress approves that infrastructure framework.
The grants are DOT’s proposed awards. Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which created the program, Congress has 60 days to review the selections. After that period, if Congress does not object to the department’s proposals, DOT can start to obligate the funds.