U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Biden-Harris Administration intends to award $905.25 million to 24 projects in 18 states under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program. These grants advance the Administration’s priorities of rebuilding America’s infrastructure and creating jobs by funding highway and rail projects of regional and national economic significance that position America to win the 21st century.
“These timely investments in our infrastructure will create jobs and support regional economies, while helping to spur innovation, confront climate change, and address inequities across the country,” said Secretary Buttigieg.
INFRA grants were selected based on several criteria. In addition to prioritizing projects that would improve local economies, create jobs, and meet all statutory requirements, for the first time in USDOT’s history, grants were considered by how they would address climate change, environmental justice, and racial equity.
Further, USDOT prioritized funding to rural areas to address historic underinvestment. Approximately 44% of proposed funding will be awarded to rural projects, which exceeds the statutory requirements for rural projects set by Congress by 19%.
INFRA projects were also rated on the extent that they applied innovative technology and whether they could deliver projects in a cost-effective manner.
Demand for INFRA grants far exceeded available funds. USDOT evaluated 157 eligible applications from 42 states, as well as Guam. Applicants collectively requested approximately $6.8 billion in grant funds—more than seven times the funding available.
The below projects are just a few examples of how the INFRA grant program aligns with the Administration’s priorities and provides critically needed funding for highway and freight projects of national or regional significance throughout America.
West Seattle Corridor Bridges Rehabilitation and Strengthening, Seattle, Washington
- The Seattle Department of Transportation will be awarded $11,250,600 to make significant bridge repairs on the West Seattle High-Rise bridge that is currently closed due to structural deficiencies, as well as the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (“low bridge”) running adjacent to the High-Rise bridge.
- The project proposes using Seattle’s Priority Hire Program, an innovative project delivery strategy, that prioritizes the hiring of local workers living in economically distressed communities. Planning was informed by community outreach and task force, the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative, and applying a Racial Equity Toolkit. The current detours that this project seeks to address disproportionately affect underserved communities and communities with high representation of people of color. The project is partially located in a Federal Opportunity Zone.
Dubuque Port and Rail Improvements, Dubuque, Iowa
- The City of Dubuque will be awarded $5 million to increase capacity and make improvements to the Gavilon marine port and rail facility at Dove Harbor terminal at the Port of Dubuque. The project would renovate an existing fertilizer storage to increase its storage capacity, replace and upgrade approximately 7,300 ft of inoperable rail track; relocate approximately 2,800 ft of rail track to support direct transport of fertilizer and other bulk products from river barge to rail; and install new rail equipment, including a main line switch, loadout system and shed, and rail-to-barge direct transfer system.
- In addition to creating jobs, the project’s capacity expansion and improved rail access will increase the tonnage of fertilizer shipped through the terminal, will shift fertilizer and grain shipping from truck and rail to port and rail, and will address safety by upgrading hazardous rail track. The shift from truck to maritime transport results in substantial economic vitality benefits, such as reduced operating costs for shippers, and also directly contributes to the climate goal in Dubuque’s Climate Action Plan to decrease vehicle miles traveled by 10% by 2030. Additionally, the terminal operator is a key partner and employer in the City’s efforts to address equity, through the Equitable Poverty Reduction and Prevention Plan and a commitment to creating a community Racial Equity Index. The project is located in a Federal Opportunity Zone.
The Community Infrastructure and Resiliency Zone (CIRZ), Los Angeles, California
- The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will be awarded $18 million towards a Safe Streets Infrastructure project that includes approximately 26 new traffic signals and leading pedestrian interval (LPI) signal enhancements at approximately 90 intersections. It also includes street transformations and improvements such as new separated bike lanes, high visibility crosswalk markings, a center median pedestrian refuge island, bus boarding islands, sidewalk improvements, curb extensions, upgraded curb ramps, pedestrian signals, new stormwater capture facilities, and additional shade trees.
- There are significant safety benefits from avoided traffic fatalities and emissions benefits from encouraging modal shift to non-motorized or electric modes of transportation. The project conducted extensive outreach in historically Black and Latino communities to inform equity in project design and ensure alignment with various equity and sustainability initiatives in Los Angeles. Innovative Vision Zero countermeasures and targeted pedestrian crash reduction strategies are included in the proposal as well. The project is located partially in a Federal Promise Zone, three Federal Empowerment Zones, and two Opportunity Zones.
Southport Berth Development and Port Expansion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority will be awarded $49 million to construct a new approximately 1,056 linear foot multi-use berth that will be used to accommodate roll-on/roll-off vessels. This project also includes the dredging of the adjacent berth space.
- The project supports economic vitality by creating jobs and through the freight truck and port operating cost savings resulting from the. The project also improves disaster preparedness and resiliency because it will be constructed to the 100-year floodplain. The project is located entirely within a Federal Empowerment Zone.
Northeast Georgia Inland Port, Hall County, Georgia
- The Georgia Ports Authority will be awarded $46,868,000 to build a new inland container port along the I-85/I-985 corridor in an unincorporated area of Gainesville, which will be linked with the Port of Savannah by direct, 324-mile intermodal freight rail service.
- The project supports economic vitality by creating jobs and reducing freight travel times by providing a direct freight rail link to the Port of Savannah, reducing the need for containers moving between the Gainesville area and the seaport from traveling either 301 miles by truck or are moving by rail to a yard west of Atlanta and then traveling by truck an additional 70 miles through a congested area. By shifting more transport to freight, it will have positive climate impacts by reducing vehicle miles traveled. There is also private sector support for the project which can stretch federal dollars even further with this project.
- The Maine Department of Transportation will be awarded $45,240,000 to replace fourteen aging bridge decks, all of which are on the National Highway System and many of which are on the National Highway Freight Network. These bridges have deteriorated to the end of their useful lives, are in poor condition, and are considered structurally deficient. The aging bridge decks will be replaced with new, safe, and modern bridge decks, meeting current traffic safety standards, and the project is expected to facilitate freight movement across critical freight corridors into, within and out of the state of Maine.
- The project supports regional economic vitality by creating jobs and avoiding increased transportation costs from lengthy detours that would occur in the event the bridges would need to be closed, absent the proposed improvements. The project will use recycled materials in the reconstruction and replacement of the bridges.
As required under the FAST Act, Congress will have 60 days to review the Department’s proposed project awardees. After the 60-day review period, the Department is free to begin obligating funding.
The full list of proposed awards is on the Department of Transportation’s website: https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica/financing/infra-grants/infra-2021-fact-sheets.
Source: U.S. DOT