The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) Tuesday encompassing three competitive grant programs authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These programs will invest nearly $2.9 billion for regionally or nationally significant transportation projects.
The notice includes the following Fiscal Year 2022 funding:
- $1 billion for the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants program, known as the Mega Grants program;
- About $1.55 billion for the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Project grants program, known as INFRA; and
- $300 million for the Rural Surface Transportation grant program, known as Rural.
Mega Grants will support large multimodal transportation projects, with 50% going to projects costing $500 million or more. The remaining half will support projects between $100 million and $500 million. This program will help large multimodal projects with gaps in their financial plans.
At least 15% of the INFRA grants will support small projects costing less than $100 million. Another 25% will go to projects focusing on rural needs.
The Rural program will support projects outside of urbanized areas with a population of 200,000 or more. That excludes areas in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Evansville-Henderson, Huntington-Ashland, Lexington, and Louisville areas. At least 90% of all projects must have a minimum $25 million award.
These awards will focus on rural needs, such as improving highway safety and expanding access to rural transit services. The program includes set asides for projects on the Appalachian Development Highway System and projects located in states with above average rural lane departure fatality rates.
All three programs will use the same application process and deadline of May 23, 2022. Each program will consider safety; state of good repair; economic impacts, freight movement, and job creation; climate change, resiliency, and the environment; equity, multimodal options, and quality of life; and innovation. Additional considerations include cost effectiveness; demonstrated project readiness, which includes technical assessment, financial completeness, environmental review, and permitting risk; and geographic diversity among recipients, including a balance between the needs of urban and rural projects.
While cities qualify as eligible recipients for all three programs, they likely will not have projects large enough to garner national attention. City officials should work with their local Transportation Cabinet districts to include their highway needs in various state proposals. Later this year, USDOT will roll out other new programs that will interest cities, including Safe Streets and Roads for All and Railroad Crossing Elimination Grants.