The Federal Highway Administration has kicked off a competitive grant program that aims to spark the use of advanced technology and software tools for highway and bridge projects, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and digital project delivery, with a goal of speeding project completion.

In its June 27 announcement that it will start taking applications for the Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems program, FHWA said the program will total about $85 million over five years.

The initial round will total about $34 million, the agency added. The funds come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a statement, “Technology has transformed many facets of life in the modern era and we want to take advantage of these advancements to deliver projects on time and on budget.”

FHWA said that types of technologies include "infrastructure planning and coordination, design, construction, maintenance, modernization and management, and asset management, including hardware, mobile devices, software, ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT), and personnel."

The agency added, "It also includes the development and support of systems to enhance and share data across an asset’s life cycle and between organizational silos, also referred to as maximizing interoperability."

State departments of transportation have been working for years to modernize their project management and development practices, often with mixed success. Numerous technology vendors crowd the space, but industry firms using modern, digital project delivery tools often find themselves interfacing with state agencies that have not had the funding opportunities to update their own internal practices.

The deadline for applying to the initial round of grants is Aug. 28. States and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible for the technology grants. 

The federal government will contribute 80% of the total cost of projects to be funded by the new grants. States will put up the other 20%.

Grant Program Ground Rules

For each of the program’s years, the minimum federal share per grant is $1 million; the maximum share per award is $5 million.

For the initial 2022-2023 round, the agency says it expects to award 10 to 20 grants, and five to 10 grants per year in succeeding rounds, “subject to the availability of funds.”

For the initial round, a state can submit as many as six applications. In succeeding years, the limit is three applications per state. A state is eligible to win “one or more grants per award cycle,” FHWA said in its funding-availability notice.

A project can occur at any stage of a project, including design and engineering, construction and operations. A project’s duration is expected to be one to four years from the grant award’s effective date, according to the agency.

Funds will be awarded after a project agreement is executed between a state and FHWA.

States will be permitted to team up on applications.