The U.S. Dept. of Transportation awarded $1.5 billion for 26 freight and highway infrastructure projects in the latest round of its seven-year-old Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grants program. Funding for the INFRA grants, which U.S. DOT announced on Sept. 15, come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The IIJA increased INFRA funding by more than 50% from earlier levels, DOT says.
The INFRA program was created in the 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act. In all, the IIJA is providing $8 billion for INFRA over five years.
The projects selected to receive grants are located in 23 states and Puerto Rico. State DOTs received 13 of the grants, with others going to cities, counties and other entities.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure implementation coordinator, said in a Sept. 14 briefing for reporters, that the selected projects “are in every corner of the country."
[View U.S DOT summaries of each project here.]
Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans, added, "And they’re going to drive sweeping change, saving lives and spurring economic growth.”
About 43% of the new INFRA awards are going to projects in rural areas, Landrieu said. That exceeds the statutory rural set-aside of 25% of the funds.
Strong Competition for DOT's Discretionary Grants
Competition is strong for DOT's discretionary grants and the latest INFRA round is no exception. "We received over 250 applications requesting over $26.5 billion in funding," said Christopher Coes, DOT assistant secretary for transportation policy.
Besides increasing INFRA funding, the IIJA widened the types of projects eligible for the program's grants. Possible projects now include wildlife crossings for infrastructure assets and surface transportation projects that are in or connected to an international border crossing.
The largest single INFRA grant this year, $150 million, is going to a border-crossing project—a new toll road and facility at the Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry in San Diego County, Calif.
Other large grants in the 2022 round include $127.1 million to Cincinnati to build a new Western Hills Viaduct; and $110 million to New York City for a new 1-million-sq-ft intermodal facility at the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx.
The Michigan DOT is receiving $104.7 million for a community reconnection project in Detroit. The plan calls for converting Interstate-375 to a “slower-speed boulevard.” It also includes realigning ramps and removing bridges and stormwater runoff pump stations.
Two projects will each receive $100 million: improvements to about eight miles of the Interstate-70 Mountain Corridor in Clear Creek County, Colo.; and widening and other improvements to I-85 in North Carolina’s Cleveland and Gaston counties.
Seeking to simplify its discretionary grant programs, U.S. DOT this year initiated a “common application,” through which states, cities and other entities can apply to any or all of three types of grants, INFRA and two new programs, Rural Surface Transportation Grants and National Infrastructure Project Assistance, which DOT has dubbed the “Mega” program.
DOT says it will announce the winners of the rural and Mega competitions “in the coming months."