The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has launched a new funding program that will make approximately US$1.5bn available to projects that are in line with the Trump Administration’s principles to help rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Issued through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in the Federal Register, the new Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program aims to increase the total investment by state, local and private partners, in addition to providing direct federal funding for projects.
INFRA advances a pre-existing grant program established in the FAST Act of 2015 and uses updated criteria to evaluate projects to align them with national and regional economic goals.
The new program will increase the impact of projects by releasing capital and allowing innovation in the delivery and permitting processes, including public-private partnerships. INFRA will promote innovative safety schemes that improve the national transportation system, and also target performance and accountability in project delivery and operations.
USDOT will make INFRA awards to schemes of all sizes, with 10% reserved for small projects in each fiscal year. For a small project, the grant must be at least US$5m, and at least US$25m for a large one. The INFRA grant program also preserves the statutory requirement in the FAST Act to award at least 25% of funding for rural projects.
The government understands that rural needs may well exceed this limit, and USDOT will favor rural projects to the greatest extent possible. For rural communities in need of funding for highway and multimodal freight projects with national or regional economic significance, INFRA is an opportunity to apply directly for financial assistance from the federal government.
INFRA grants may be used to fund a variety of components of an infrastructure project, however, USDOT is specifically focused on schemes where the local sponsor has significant investment and is positioned to proceed rapidly to construction.
Eligible INFRA project costs may include: reconstruction, rehabilitation, acquisition of property or land, environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, equipment acquisition, and operational improvements directly related to system performance. Open for 120 days, applicants may resubmit their previous FASTLANE application, but explain how it meets the improved INFRA criteria.
“The President and the Department are committed to revitalizing, repairing and rebuilding America’s aging infrastructure,” explained US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “By ensuring the right incentives, projects selected under this program will be better able to make significant, long-term improvements to America’s transportation infrastructure.”