The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has opened a competition for a new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) program that provides $1.75 billion over five years to add elevators, ramps and other features to make more transit stations accessible to people with disabilities.

The new All Stations Accessibility Program, or ASAP, aims to address the more than 900 stations on U.S. transit systems that are not fully accessible.

On July 26—the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act—U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration released a funding-availability notice for $343 million, the fiscal year 2022 installment of ASAP grants.

Applications are due by Sept. 30 and transit systems must provide a 20% nonfederal matching share.

The 1990 ADA required new transit stations to be accessible, but it granted a “conditional exemption” from that requirement for existing stations, Mitch Landrieu, the White House coordinator of IIJA implementation, said in a press briefing on July 25.

 As a result, more than 900 pre-1990 transit stations at 17 "legacy" transit systems "remain at least partially inaccessible to people with disabilities," said Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans.

FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said that her agency expects the program to be “oversubscribed.”

She said, “We’re expecting agencies running some of our most transit-intensive cities to apply.”

FTA said in its funding notice that it "may cap the amount a single recipient or state may receive as part of the selection process."

The agency said in a statement to ENR that it "intends to fund as many meritorious projects as possible."

FTA did not have an estimate of the total cost to bring all 900-plus stations into ADA compliance, but Fernandez said, “There’s more need than the funds that are going to be available for five years.”

She noted that transit systems can also use funds from FTA’s State of Good Repair and formula funding programs for accessibility projects.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who introduced the ASAP legislation that was folded into the IIJA, said at the briefing, “Too many still live in neighborhoods whose rail station lacks the ramps or elevators necessary to actually make it usable for those of us with disabilities.”

While serving in the Iraq War in 2004, Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of her right arm when the helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The American Public Transportation Association praised the new program. In a statement, the group said that ASAP "will allow public transit agencies to immediately begin updating legacy stations."

It added, "The ASAP program is a significant down payment to provide more equitable access to transit for all Americans."