The billion dollars available this year is a tiny fraction of the total $1 trillion in infrastructure legislation, but it’s money that could be used to advance projects that officials say could serve examples of the package’s impact.
The Department of Transportation is making an additional $1.9 billion available through two other programs. The agency will allow applicants to submit a single application to all three, an offer to make it easier for local leaders to access federal funding and give officials in Washington a better sense of the aspirations of communities across the country.
“As part of this approach and with a major infusion of new funding, we have the ability to greenlight more transformative projects,” Buttigieg said.
The deadline for submitting applications is in two months. Buttigieg said he expects to announce the winners by the fall.
The infrastructure package, signed into law by President Biden last year, dramatically expanded the Transportation Department’s discretionary grant programs, giving Buttigieg unusual authority to select projects that align with the administration’s infrastructure priorities. safety, environment and racial equity. But even with the new funds, the department will likely find the programs oversubscribed: It received $10 billion in proposals last year for Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, one of three that opened applications Wednesday.
Last year’s $900 million in funding was split among 24 projects in 18 states, giving a first look at how the new administration’s priorities were shaping successful apps. Winning projects from the freight-focused program included $92 million for highway system overhauls in Wenatchee, Wash., and $70 million to expand a highway interchange near Indianapolis. They also included $18 million to mitigate the adverse effects of truck traffic in Los Angeles neighborhoods.
The infrastructure bill expanded the program to $1.55 billion this year.
Mitch Landrieu, the president’s infrastructure coordinator, said he knows from his previous work as mayor of New Orleans and lieutenant governor of Louisiana, “how incredibly difficult it is for communities to to raise enough money to carry out very big projects”.
But in an age when the price of a single infrastructure project can run into billions of dollars, even the Mega program fund is likely to support only a small number of proposals. This year’s $1 billion will be split into two pots: half for projects costing between $100 million and $500 million — totals that would include state and local contributions — and half for those costing more. of $500 million. Applicants will also be able to obtain funding for several years.
A $2.7 billion replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky is often considered as the likely recipient of the new funding. The governors of both states said in February that they were seeking $2 billion in federal aid for the project.
Buttigieg said the Gateway program, a system of bridges and tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey, could also be eligible. Officials involved in the project said its initial phases were already funded, but later work could benefit from additional federal assistance.
The third program launched Wednesday provides $300 million for projects in rural areas, targeting roads, bridges and tunnels to help move freight or improve safety.
Although grants are an important source of funding, they represent only a small fraction of transportation funds in the infrastructure program. Most of it is passed on to states and transit agencies, which have the latitude to decide how best to spend it.