Last November, the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (also known as Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) was passed and signed into law by President Joe Biden. This historic bill was one of the largest infrastructure investments in the nation’s history and promised 1.2 trillion dollars towards rebuilding America’s roads, bridges and rails while creating jobs, tackling the climate crisis, and investing in communities.
To accomplish this goal, the IIJA significantly expanded current funding programs and created new competitive grant programs. Additionally, funding was expanded to include local government eligibility, presenting a unique opportunity for municipalities to invest in their communities. This article examines the first round of IIJA funding programs rolled out this past summer and the infrastructure projects that were prioritized.
New Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act Programs
During Summer 2022, around a dozen Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) for IIJA-related programs were issued. Of these, three existing programs were combined into a new program which included more funding, an easier application process, and a new infrastructure related-program.
Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant Program
In the spring of 2022, the Department of Transportation released a NOFO for the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grants (“MPDG”) program. This grant program combined the National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grants program (“Mega”), the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Projects grants program, (“INFRA”), and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant program (“Rural”).
The MPDG program provides Federal financial assistance to state and local governments to fund highway and bridge infrastructure projects, intercity rails, wildlife crossings, public transportation, and freight projects. The MPDG program promised up to $1 billion in FY 2022 under the MEGA funding stream, $1.55 billion under the INFRA funding stream, and $300 million under the Rural funding stream.
Applications closed at the end of May2022. As of September 14th, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced $1.5 billion in awards for 26 Transportation Projects Nationwide under the INFRA funding stream. Award announcements for the MEGA and Rural streams are expected in the coming weeks. In the announcement, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that “Today we are announcing transformative investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and rail to improve the way Americans get around and help lower the costs of shipping goods. Using funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are able to support more excellent community-led projects this year than ever before.”
INFRA award recipients were chosen based on their ability to provide significant national or regional economic benefits, and how they supported freight movement, created jobs, addressed climate change and resiliency, and addressed equity issues.
Recipients included an I-4 West Central Florida Truck Parking Facility that will tackle the shortage of commercial truck parking on a corridor between Tampa and Orlando. The project will construct a new truck parking facility, and electric charging stations to assist commercial vehicle drivers in identifying available parking locations. The Rockport Bridge Rehabilitation Freight Rail project was also awarded funding. The 100-year-old Rockport Bridge will be rehabilitated and then serve as a vital link for the transportation of commodities such as chemicals, grain, coal, lumber, steel, and petroleum along the 280-mile railway. Additionally, an I-375 Community Reconnection Project in Detroit, Michigan is receiving funding. This project will reconnect neighborhoods that were divided by the current highway design with an at-grade boulevard, providing the community with better access to jobs and services in the area. In San Diego, INFRA funds are being used to construct a new road (State Route 11) and Port of Entry facility at Otay Mesa, which will provide an alternative for nearly 3,600 trucks that cross the existing Otay Mesa and Tecate Ports of Entries daily, while also creating new jobs.
Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program
In addition to the MPDG, the IIJA also created the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which was released in July 2022. Applications are open until October 13, 2022. The total amount of funding available for Fiscal Year 2022 is up to $195 million. This program aims to reconnect communities by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating transportation facilities such as highways and rail lines that create barriers to community connectivity. The program provides technical assistance and grant funding for planning and capital construction to address infrastructure barriers, restore community connectivity, and improve people’s lives.
Thus far, the application process for both the MPDG and the Reconnecting Communities Pilot program have been well received. For both new programs, significant resources have been made available for potential applicants.
In relation to the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, a series of webinars have been made available outlining the application requirements and highlighting key features of successful applications. Additionally, frequently asked questions are answered, and the application process is explained. As this program continues to accept applications, its outcomes are still being evaluated.
The MPDG program, specifically its application format, has been reviewed positively by local governments. The MPDG program combined three older funding streams and instead allowed applicants to submit one common application to all three funding streams. This significantly cuts down on resources and time that would have been required to complete an application for each stream.
Additionally, the MPDG program expanded eligibility for the INFRA funding stream to include wildlife crossing projects, marine highway corridor projects, and international border crossing surface transportation projects- a change that was met with positive feedback. With regards to the INFRA funding announcement, the USDOT awarded a significant amount of funding to rural areas, historically disadvantaged communities, and areas of persistent poverty to address historic underinvestment in these communities.
The US DOT released a large amount of resources to help applicants prepare to submit their applications. This included releasing a six part webinar series on how to create a successful application, and releasing additional guides for each funding stream. These guides included Cost Benefit Analysis Guidance, Project Readiness Guidance, and Environmental Approval guidance for each funding stream.
Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act Conclusion
Looking back on the first summer of IIJA funding and new program rollouts, the progress is promising. The promised timelines in the IIJA for new programs and expansions of existing programs were met, along with expanded funding. Additionally, there has been positive feedback regarding the streamlined application process for the MPDG and the expanded eligibility for the INFRA grant. These changes allow for more local governments to apply to these essential funding programs, increasing accessibility to funding for communities most in need. Additionally, the resources provided by the US DOT for potential applicants provide potential applicants with the tools needed to create a successful application. This is especially important for local governments with limited resources and time, as they can make use of these free resources and the common application to craft their application, encouraging all local governments to apply for MPDG funding,
Based on resources currently available, the first summer rollout of IIJA new funding programs can be deemed successful: Timelines and funding promises were met, prime resources for applicants were released, and grant awards thus far have been made in alignment with the values and priorities of the IIJA. As more new programs and funding announcements are made, PSD Citywide will continue to monitor and analyze the potential successes and failures of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act.