Launching a new program created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has picked 12 projects to receive $273.9 million in grants for highway and other surface transportation projects in rural areas around the country. 

The grant awards, announced on Dec. 21, went to projects in 12 states. Ten of the selected projects are for road, highway or bridge improvements. 

The largest grant, $69 million, went to the Pennsylvania DOT, to rebuild about six miles of a new four-lane highway that is part of the Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation Project

A U.S.DOT summary says that the area’s crash and fatality rates exceed Pennsylvania’s statewide level and many crashes involve trucks.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who said he had fought for the Central Susquehanna project for more than 10 years, called the highway “a critical link in central Pennsylvania.” 

Competition was intense for the grants. DOT said it received applications totaling about $10 billion, far more than the approximately $300 million it had available.

The grants are part of DOT's Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program, which was established by the IIJA and is funded at $2 billion over five years.

Under the infrastructure law, the minimum grant for the new rural program is generally $25 million, though up to 10% of the funds can go for grants smaller than $25 million.

The department noted that about 13% of rural roads and 10% of bridges that are not on the National Highway System are in poor condition, and most of them in rural ares.

DOT also said the fatality rate on rural roads is twice that of urban roads.