The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has opened the competition for $1.5 billion in federal funds in its latest round of Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, surface transportation grants. 

In its Nov. 30 announcement, DOT said it would accept applications for the funding through Feb. 28 and added that it would select the winning projects no later than June 27.

DOT said in its funding-availability notice that its goal is to fund surface transportation projects “that will have a significant local or regional impact” and meet Biden administration policy priorities, including improved safety, economic impact, equity and climate and sustainability.

If the past is any guide, the start of the latest RAISE round, announced on Nov. 30, will draw requests for far more aid than the $1.5 billion DOT has available.

A Long History, Under Different Names

The grant program, launched in 2009, had been named the TIGER program, for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, Then the Trump administration changed it to BUILD, for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development. The Biden administration re-named it RAISE.

Whatever its label, the grant program has been tremendously popular among states, localities, Indian tribes, port authorities, transit agencies or other eligible entities.

For example, when DOT announced the winners of the fiscal 2023 round of grants, in June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg noted that the department received applications seeking a total of about $15 billion for the $2.2 billion it had available.

A Cut From FY 2023, for Now

The new fiscal year 2024 RAISE round's funding is down from the $2.2 billion awarded in the previous round. Both include $1.5 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The last round also included $775 million in regular appropriations.

Congress has yet to approve a full-year 2024 appropriations measure. DOT said in its RAISE notice that if a 2024 appropriations bill or other legislation is enacted that provides "additional funding or significantly alter requirements for the RAISE grant program, the department will amend this notice with guidance on additional requirements."

Funding Restrictions

Congress has set a number of restrictions specifying how DOT can divide RAISE funds.

The program has capital and planning grants. The maximum individual amount for capital or planning grants is $25 million. The minimum capital grant is $5 million in urban areas and $1 million in rural areas. There is no minimum level for planning grants.

Another requirement is that not more than 15% of the new RAISE round's total awards, or $225 million, can go to projects in a single state.

At least 5%, or $75 million, of the total must go to planning projects; at least 11%, or $15 million must go projects in disadvantaged communities or those with persistent poverty.

In addition, no more than 50% of the total, or $750 million, can be awarded for projects in rural areas.

RAISE grantees typically combine those dollars with other types of DOT grants plus their own nonfederal funds.

But the total federal funding share for a project receiving a RAISE grant is limited to 80%, unless the project is in a rural area, disadvantaged or high-poverty locale.