The US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, has announced that the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has received 212 applications totaling nearly US$9.8bn for grants through the newly created Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) funding program.
The huge wave of interest in the first year of this new program underscores the continuing need for infrastructure investment across the USA, with states and localities requesting over 13 times more funding than was available through the FASTLANE program. Of the 212 applications received by the April 14 deadline, 136 represent projects in urban areas, while the remaining 76 would support rural projects. The USDOT is currently reviewing all eligible applications, with funding awards to be announced later in the year. The FAST Act authorized US$800m in funding for the FASTLANE program for the 2016 fiscal year, with 25% reserved for rural projects, and 10% for smaller projects.
The FASTLANE program was established in December 2015 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to fund critical freight and highway projects across the country. FASTLANE grants provide dedicated funding for projects that address major issues facing the USA’s highways and bridges. For the first time in the USDOT’s 50-year history, the program establishes broad, multiyear eligibilities for freight infrastructure, including intermodal projects.
The FASTLANE grants will address many of the challenges outlined in the USDOT’s Beyond Traffic report, including increased congestion on the nation’s highways, and the need for a strong multimodal transportation system to support the expected growth in freight movement, both by tonnage and value. It is also in line with the Department’s draft National Freight Strategic Plan released in October 2015, which looks at challenges and identifies strategies to address impediments to the efficient flow of goods throughout the country.
FASTLANE grants, authorized by the FAST Act’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) program, will fund small and large projects, based on project size, that meet statutory requirements. Large projects, defined as being equal to the lesser of US$100m or a certain specified statutory percentage of the project state’s FY 2015 apportionment, are eligible for a minimum award of US$25m. Small projects, which consist of projects below the minimum large project size threshold, are eligible for a minimum award of US$5m.
Announcing the massive oversubscription in FASTLANE funding applications, Foxx said, “Transportation creates jobs and makes jobs of the future possible. We know there is pent up demand for projects that will speed up the delivery of goods and make America even more competitive. Today, we have even more evidence. We’re going to do our best to support high-impact transportation projects that will lay a new foundation for job creation and exporting American made goods throughout the world.”