Transportation Infrastructure & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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6 min
transportation
transportation infrastructure
public transit
safe streets
electric vehicles
zero emission vehicles
STBG
Ellory Monks

Lover of infrastructure, cities, environment. Also: women engineers, Rice University. Co-Founder of @TheAtlas4Cities & 2x mom.

The $108 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure is a tremendous opportunity to upgrade our rapidly deteriorating transportation infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave it a D- in its 2021 American Infrastructure Report Card.

According to ASCE, there is currently a $176 billion deferred maintenance transit backlog that continues to rise, while transit ridership continues to decline – partly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) shows that the pedestrian fatality rate is on the rise; in 2020 the rate increased by 21%, up from 1.9% the year prior. Meanwhile, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, making it the primary source of emissions in the United States.

IIJA includes approximately $108 billion for transportation infrastructure. The funding goals include rebuilding roads, bridges, transit and rail services, introducing clean energy and low emissions vehicles, strengthening mobility and access in public transportation and improving safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Importantly, it should help address the growing revenue shortfalls facing state and local governments.

This section outlines transportation programs in IIJA that are most relevant to state and local governments and the relative speed at which state and local governments can expect to receive funding.

It also includes case studies from state and local governments that have successfully implemented and maintained transportation projects aligned with the transportation priorities outlined in IIJA.

Funding Priorities for Transportation included in IIJA

Funding priorities for transportation in IIJA aren’t a complete mystery – they are outlined in the legislation itself. We know, for example, that the DOT has a mandate from Congress and the White House to prioritize projects that incorporate climate resilience, including electric vehicles. We also know that safety will be a top priority, as will equity and access.

The Federal Transit Administration outlines the key priorities for transportation under the legislation:

  1. Safety
    New programs like the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program will fund the development of safety action plans and projects that promote safety, reduce traffic fatalities and support Vision Zero initiatives.
  2. Modernization
    Reauthorized formulas like the State of Good Repair Grants will address deferred maintenance backlogs. The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) will fund the repair and upgrades of aging infrastructure and the modernization of bus and rail fleets.
  3. Climate
    The funding will also replace thousands of transit vehicles with clean-energy vehicles in the newly-established Low or No Emission Vehicle Program.
  4. Equity
    Competitive grants like RAISE aim to improve mobility and accessibility for communities with historically limited access to public transportation.

State and local government transportation leaders should reference these funding priorities frequently as they are considering which projects to put forward for funding. Projects that fit squarely into one of these funding priorities are more likely to receive funding quickly.

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Relevant Transportation Programs in IIJA & Speed of Distribution

Congress included a wide variety of funding mechanisms for transportation in IIJA. How quickly state and local governments will see funding depends greatly on the infrastructure type and funding mechanism prescribed in IIJA.

To help navigate this complexity, we’ve broken down the transportation programs in IIJA most relevant to state and local governments and the relative speed at which local governments can expect to receive the funding. It is important to point out that this list is not exhaustive – it only includes the programs we think are most relevant to state and local governments.

State and local governments should see money from reauthorized formula grant programs fastest. IIJA provides additional funding to these reauthorized transportation formula programs:

  • Reauthorized Formula Grant
  • Funding Amount: $64.8 billion
  • Applicants: State DOTs, Metropolitan planning organizations, transit authorities

  • Reauthorized Formula Grants
  • Funding Amount: $21.6 billion
  • Applicants: State and local transit agencies

  • Reauthorized Formula Grant
  • Funding Amount: $13.2 billion
  • Applicants: State DOTs, Metropolitan planning organizations, transit authorities

  • Reauthorized Formula Program
  • Funding Amount: $2.19 billion
  • Applicants: State or local government authorities, operators of public transportation or nonprofit organizations

The next transportation money state and local governments are likely to see will come from reauthorized competitive grants. These tend to move more slowly than formula funds because the review and selection process for competitive grants takes time.

  • Reauthorized Competitive Grant
  • Previously known as BUILD and TIGER
  • Funding Amount: $7.5 billion
  • Applicants: State and local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, port authorities
  • UPDATE: Notice of Funding Opportunity 

After that, state and local governments should see money that comes from newly established formula programs. Any funding that relies on an entirely new program will take longer than money funneling through a reauthorized program. Newly established formula programs tend to be more straightforward to stand up than newly established competitive grants. For transportation, this category includes:

  • Newly Established Formula Grant
  • Funding Amount: $5 billion
  • Applicants: State DOTs
  • UPDATE: Program Guidance 

Finally, state and local governments are likely to see money from newly created competitive grant programs. This money tends to move the slowest. For transportation, IIJA creates several newly created competitive grant programs. They include:

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $7.2 billion
  • Applicants: Local governments, regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, natural resource or public land agencies, school districts, local educational agencies or schools, tribal governments, nonprofits overseeing transportation safety programs

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $5 billion
  • Applicants: State and local governments, school transportation associations, tribal organizations or schools

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $5 billion
  • Applicants: Metropolitan planning organizations, political subdivisions of states, Tribal governments

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $500 million
  • Applicants: States, public transit agencies, public toll authorities, metropolitan planning organizations

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $500 million
  • Applicants: State and local governments

Of course, this sequencing is a generalization. The exact sequencing of when state and local governments will receive money from the programs above depends on complexity of the program involved, especially for the newly established formula funds and competitive grant and loan programs. For example, certain newly established formula funds may require significant data collection to write allocation formulas. When that’s the case, funds through those programs will be slower to arrive.

Model Transportation Projects to Prioritize for IIJA Funding

Right now, many state and local government transportation leaders are thinking big about the projects they can pursue. The potential for lasting impacts comes with the historic investments included in IIJA. The scale of transportation investment included in IIJA happens no more than once in a generation. In this section, we’ve compiled a list of case studies from state and local governments who have successfully pursued transportation projects that are consistent with the funding priorities included in the legislation.

Our hope is that they serve as model projects to put forward for IIJA funding – ones that inspire state and local government leaders to pursue transformative impacts with the coming influx of federal money.

Safe Streets and Pedestrian Safety

The City of Durham has made significant progress towards its Vision Zero goal – eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries – by quantifying the impact of the built environment on road safety.

Local Gov Case Study

To combat speeding on local roads, the town of Greenburgh’s police department utilized a digital radar sign that warns speeding drivers and collects traffic data. This solution increases resident safety and the data it collects allows police to more efficiently focus their enforcement efforts.

Local Gov Case Study

The city wanted to create a “pedestrian seductive” area to attract and retain. The goals of the project included enhancing safety for all modes of transportation, improving stormwater management while highlighting sustainability education, and using community engagement feedback to inform the space.

Local Gov Case Study

Electric Vehicle Charging

To build up electric vehicle infrastructure, Seattle City Light utility has installed 16 fast chargers at 6 charging stations across the city with plans to develop more.

 

Local Gov Case Study

Improved Mobility

Instead of developing and managing transportation and mobility programs individually, local governments in the Denver region collaborated to manage emerging shared mobility data consistently. Sharing the data allows for better collaboration to implement new policy.

Local Gov Case Study

To reach climate and equity goals, Los Angeles worked with transportation experts to map out seven strategies for mobility goals to improve equity, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, increase mobility options, and reduce congestion.

Local Gov Case Study

Zero Emission Mass Transit

With increasing demand for a reliable, cleaner and quieter bus fleet, Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority developed new infrastructure and a microgrid to transition their fleet to electric vehicles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Local Gov Case Study

 

We hope these case studies inspire you and demonstrate the scale and type of community impacts that are possible with the transportation investments included in IIJA. Want to see more? Browse transportation case studies in The Atlas case study database.

Next up: Water Infrastructure & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects


Author’s Note: Rachel Angulo (Content Marketing Manager at The Atlas) provided writing and research support to this section. Mark Funkhouser (Former Mayor of Kansas City, MO), Shalini Vajjhala (Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center) and Erik Caldwell (Director of Data Strategy at The Atlas and former Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the City of San Diego) generously reviewed this section.

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