February 17, 2020 — The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) today announced it is seeking applicants for the FY 2021 round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program to fund transportation projects of national and regional significance that are in line with the Biden Administration’s principles for national infrastructure projects that result in good-paying jobs, improve safety, apply transformative technology, and explicitly address climate change and racial equity. The funding available for this year’s grants totals approximately $889 million.
The Department recognizes the role that infrastructure investment plays in economic development and job creation, and the added urgency of this funding at time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put stress on state and local budgets.
“As we work to recover and emerge from this devastating pandemic stronger than before, now is the time to make lasting investments in our nation’s infrastructure,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “We are committed to not just rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, but building back in a way that positions American communities for success in the future—creating good paying jobs, boosting the economy, ensuring equity, and tackling our climate crisis. The INFRA grant program is a tremendous opportunity to help achieve these goals.”
For the first time, the USDOT seeks INFRA projects that address climate change and environmental justice. Projects will be evaluated on whether they were planned as part of a comprehensive strategy to address climate change, or whether they support strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as deploying zero-emission-vehicle infrastructure or encouraging modal shift and a reduction in vehicle-miles-traveled.
Racial equity will also be considered as a selection criterion, to the extent that project sponsors have completed equity-focused community outreach, and projects are designed to benefit underserved communities. The Department will also consider whether the project is located in a federally designated community development zone, including qualified Opportunity Zones, Empowerment Zones, Promise Zones, or Choice Neighborhoods.
USDOT seeks projects that apply innovative technology, delivery, or financing methods with proven outcomes to deliver projects in a cost effective manner. The Department will make awards under the INFRA program to both large and small projects. For a large project, the INFRA grant must be at least $25 million. For a small project, the grant must be at least $5 million. Under statutory requirements, 10 percent of available funds are reserved for small projects, and the Department must award at least 25 percent of funding for rural projects. INFRA grants may be used to fund a variety of components of an infrastructure project, however, the Department is specifically focused on projects in which the local sponsor is significantly invested and is positioned to proceed rapidly to construction. Eligible INFRA project costs may include: reconstruction, rehabilitation, acquisition of property (including land related to the project and improvements to the land), environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, equipment acquisition, and operational improvements directly related to system performance.
The INFRA NOFO also announces the creation of the “INFRA Extra” Program, which will identify competitive INFRA applicants who do not receive an INFRA award and authorize them to seek a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) loan up to 49 percent of their project cost.
This NOFO will remain open through Friday, March 19, 2021. For more information and webinars, visit: www.transportation.gov/INFRA
Webinars will be provided for interested applicants, so keep an eye out for those being scheduled.