The grants will be used to help fund projects of national and regional significance that are in line with the a series of priorities including creating good-paying jobs, improving safety, applying innovative technology, and explicitly addressing climate change and racial equity.
The funding available for this year’s grants totals approximately US$889m (£640m).
USDOT said that it recognises 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 transportation secretary Pete 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.”
Projects will be evaluated on whether they were planned as part of a comprehensive strategy to address climate change and 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-travelled.
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 improve connections to underserved communities to reduce barriers to opportunity.
Infra projects will also be rated on the extent that they apply innovative technology, delivery, or financing methods with proven outcomes to deliver projects in a cost-effective manner.
Awards will be made under the Infra programme to both large and small projects. For a large project, the Infra grant must be at least US$25m. For a small project, the grant must be at least US$5m. Under statutory requirements, 10% of available funds are reserved for small projects, and the Department must award at least 25% 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.
The creation of the ‘Infra Extra’ programme has also be announced. This will identify competitive applicants who do not receive an Infra award and authorise them to seek a Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act of 1998 loan up to 49% of their project cost.