Wyoming officials preparing to spend infrastructure money on state projects

State officials hiring grant managers to identify needs, submit applications for federal funding

May 19, 2022 / 3 minute read
Wyoming officials preparing to spend infrastructure money on state projects

State officials across Wyoming are preparing for an influx of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The more than $1.2 trillion package will provide funding for infrastructure projects in the United States over the next five years, and Wyoming officials are working to identify areas of need in the state.

The process itself will be extensive and time-consuming, however, and many are unsure when residents will start to see the impact.

Although 60% of the funding is funneled directly to state and local governments, there is 40% left in the form of competitive grants. Officials in Wyoming do not yet know whether certain projects qualify, how to apply or when the money will be awarded.

Even though there is uncertainty, teams and grant managers are being hired to identify state needs and work through the application process in order to guarantee funding. This administrative assistance is costing agencies added expenses, which officials are hoping to get covered with a portion of the grants.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) added a new staff member to handle the funding, especially as it is responsible for a significant portion of the infrastructure initiative. WYDOT is collecting $2 billion in formula funding, and it expects to apply for grants for added projects.

The largest portion of the funding is for Wyoming roads, with $1.76 billion going toward surface transportation during the next five years. This infrastructure bill gives the transportation department around $100 million more per year than past federal legislation.

“The extra money we’re getting in terms of surface transportation will go to maintaining our current assets,” said WYDOT director Luke Reiner.

The budget increase does not fully address inflationary pressures. After bringing in an outside entity to conduct a study on the budget and priorities two years ago, Reiner found a $350 million annual funding gap between what was provided and what was needed. The department is responsible for more than just road and bridges, including Highway Patrol troopers, emergency communications, airports and driver’s licensing.

Officials point out this means there will likely be fewer projects they are capable of managing with the formula funding.

State projects officials hope to use the funding for include reconstructing the Interstate 25-Interstate 80 interchange, developing a winter reroute on I-80 and supporting truck parking and freight movement. 

During the Legislature’s 2022 budget session, lawmakers approved more than $200 million in matching funds for grant applicants. There was $100 million allocated for energy, $75 million for infrastructure, $25 million for broadband and $10 million for wildlife crossings.

The WYDOT also received $225 million specifically for addressing bridges outside of the normal budget.

“The federal government recognized that there’s a huge issue with our nation’s bridges,” Reiner said. “They allocated, again by formula, $45 million per year for the next five years.”

The funding can only go toward bridges that are in critical or poor condition, and 15% of the money must go toward municipalities. State data reveals 218 bridges and over 380 miles of highway in poor condition, and WYDOT has already begun working with local officials to discover which bridges are recommended to fix.

Funding for public transit is another key priority under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and there are two major projects in the state.

A bus service between Cheyenne and Fort Collins, Colorado, would help reduce traffic on I-25 and reduce carbon emissions.

Wyoming is also eligible to take part in the Carbon Reduction Program created under the infrastructure law, which helps states develop strategies to address the climate crisis. There is $8.1 million available in fiscal year 2022 for Wyoming, and it is eligible to receive up to $42.2 million over the next five years.

Eligible projects include trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized forms of transportation, as well as projects that support the deployment of alternative-fuel vehicles.

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Source: Laramie Boomerang

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