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DOT unlocks $2.9 billion to expand freight capacity

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced $2.9 billion in funds available for freight projects that combine three grant programs authorized by the infrastructure law signed last year.

The funding opportunity includes $1 billion available from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program, $1.55 billion from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, and $300 million from the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (RURAL).

The U.S. Department of Transportation contends that combining three major grant programs into one multimodal application process will make it easier for state and local applicants to apply to up to three major discretionary grants with a single application.

“Until now, we had limited ability to make awards beyond a certain level, or to support projects with funding from multiple federal grant programs,” commented Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Under this approach and with a major infusion of new funding, we have the capacity to greenlight more transformational projects that will create good-paying union jobs, grow the economy and make our transportation system safer and more resilient.”

Putting the three programs into a single funding opportunity notice will also help DOT get a better idea of the status of projects in development, the department noted.

The MEGA program provides grants for multijurisdictional projects that also may cut across multiple modes of transportation. Eligible projects include highway, bridge, freight and port projects of national and regional significance. Examples include bridges or tunnels connecting two states and freight hubs integrating ship, train and truck traffic “while improving environmental justice,” according to DOT.

The department will award half of the funding to projects that cost more than $500 million and half to projects that cost more than $100 million but less than $500 million.

Money available from INFRA, which received a 50% boost in funds over 2021 from the infrastructure law, will go toward funding highway, multimodal freight and rail projects that “hold the greatest promise to eliminate supply chain bottlenecks and improve critical freight movements,” DOT stated.

Grants available under the RURAL program are aimed at projects that expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas and improve the reliability of both people and freight. Examples of eligible projects include highway, bridge and tunnel projects that create or increase access to an agricultural, commercial, energy or transportation facility that support the economy of a rural area.

Deadline for applications is May 23. Details on how to apply can be found here.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.