Authored Articles & Publications Jun 29, 2017

DOT Rebrands and Expands FAST Act Grant Opportunities for Infrastructure Projects

By Gregory Rodriguez and Ana Schwab

Today, the Department of Transportation announced a discretionary grant program called the Infrastructure Rebuilding America Grants program. The program is a rebranding and expansion of the FASTLANE program, which stems from funding authorized in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, commonly known as FAST Act. The Notice of Funding Opportunity can be found here.

INFRA seeks to make available approximately $1.5 billion for projects that rebuild, repair and revitalize infrastructure by using federal funds to leverage non-federal funding and investment in transportation projects – a major theme of the Trump Infrastructure Plan. The new program will continue the existing requirement that preserves at least 25 percent of funding for rural projects. Further, the focus on economic vitality seeks projects that promote access to job centers through enhanced mobility.

INFRA will continue FASTLANE’s statutory requirements, such as eligibility costs, project types, cost share and project sizes, but modifies program objectives as follows:

  • Supports economic vitality at the national and regional level. Projects that seek to reduce bottlenecks related to the movement of goods and workers by reducing congestion in major urban areas, including through the use of innovative concepts like congestion pricing or the deployment of advanced technologies, are being sought. Also, projects that bridge gaps in service in rural areas and attract private economic development. While no longer the primary focus, freight projects will be competitive.
  • Leverages federal funding to attract other, non-federal sources of infrastructure investment, as well as accounting for the life-cycle costs of the project. Projects that are able to incorporate non-federal resources for development, construction, operations and maintenance will be given priority. Pairing INFRA grant funding with “innovative financing” through federal credit assistance programs, including TIFIA and RRIF loans, administered through the Build America Bureau, is encouraged.
  • Uses innovative approaches to improve safety and expedite project delivery. In line with statements by Transportation Department Secretary Elaine Chao, ventures that seek to test new approaches for streamlining the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects are encouraged. In focusing on safety, DOT is also seeking to experiment with innovative approaches to transportation safety, particularly projects that incorporate innovative design solution, enhance the environment for automated vehicles or use technology to increase safety on roads.
  • Holding grant recipients accountable for their performance and achieving specific, measurable outcomes identified by grant applicants.

 
It is important to note that the INFRA program combines FY 2017-18 funding for projects that meet the INFRA program criteria. This means that applicants that submitted a FASTLANE application will need to resubmit their applications under the new INFRA program and need to consider the revised INFRA program criteria. However, DOT does plan to move forward with certain FASTLANE FY 2017 selections shortly.

Applications for funding under the INFRA program are due Nov. 2, and more information can be found at the INFRA Grants website.

Note: This article originally appeared on the now-defunct BBKnowledge blog, where Best Best & Krieger authors shared their knowledge on emerging issues in public agency law.

Gregory Rodriguez is no longer with BB&K. If you have questions about this article please contact Ana Schwab at ana.schwab@bbklaw.com.

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