- U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Tuesday that the DOT is funding 91 road, rail, transit and port infrastructure projects in 49 states and Washington, D.C., in the amount of $1.5 billion through its discretionary Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program. Chao called the spending a “down payment on this administration’s commitment to America’s infrastructure."
- The department had to whittle the list of 2018 applicants down to the 91 winning projects after receiving a record 851 applications totaling $10.8 billion. Projects receiving the maximum award of $25 million include an urban riverfront revitalization in Jacksonville, Florida, that will see the demolition of a bridge, installation of traffic calming measures; a highway reconstruction project in Winkler County, Texas; and a 1.7-mile roadway and bridge in Arizona connecting the Yavapai-Apache Nation and town of Camp Verde to a major state highway. The smallest award was approximately $1.3 million for a maintenance station near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- The grant program specifically targets rural communities that have historically seen low investment. Projects in such areas were given priority based on safety, quality of life, environmental protection, state of repair, innovation and other criteria. The DOT also considered projects that utilize public-private partnerships and non-federal revenue.
The DOT secretary’s statement that the $1.5 billion is a down payment on infrastructure is reminiscent of a similar sentiment from outgoing Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in March when he said Congress would split President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan into five or six bills instead of trying to push everything through at once.
Another federal grant initiative that addresses the need to improve rural infrastructure is the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program. In June, the DOT announced that $1.5 billion would be made available through INFRA through discretionary grant awards. One project in the running is the $184 million addition of 17 miles of express lanes on State Road 400 in Georgia. No final decisions have been made about which projects will receive funding.
Formerly known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants, the BUILD grants were first introduced in 2009 as a way for local governments to get much-needed funding for critical infrastructure projects that may not be attracting private investment. In a March round of awards, rural projects received a record 64% share of funding.