The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently announced the Trump Administration’s intention to commit $906 million toward reinforcing America’s infrastructure through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program (U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao Announces $906 Million Investment to Revitalize America’s Infrastructure). The funding will be allocated to infrastructure projects in 20 different states.
“This Administration is focused on infrastructure improvements and this $906 million in federal funding will improve major highways, bridges, ports, and railroads across the country to better connect our communities, enhance safety, and support economic growth,” said United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
The INFRA program provides grants to support the Administration’s goal of improving infrastructure through opportunities in all levels of government and the private sector, innovative processes for significant projects, and increased accountability for the projects receiving grants. USDOT will provide direct federal funding along with efforts to increase state, local, and private investment.
The infrastructure grant program was created in 2015 by Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Applications for grants are evaluated by USDOT and chosen to help accomplish national and regional goals regarding economic vitality. Projects under the program provide greater economic impact by leveraging federal grant funding and encouraging the pursuit of innovative strategies such as public-private partnerships.
In a continuation of the Administration’s effort to compensate for the historic underinvestment in rural America, more than half of the proposed funding will be awarded to projects in rural areas. Nearly $300 million is being made available to projects in Opportunity Zones, as well as several other projects located in areas near Opportunity Zones.
As is often the case when the government is handing out money, the demand for INFRA grants far exceeds the funds available for distribution. USDOT received almost 200 applications from 47 states requesting over $7 billion, more than eight times the total amount authorized under the Act.
Infrastructure projects like the INFRA program definitely make a positive contribution to USDOT’s mission “to ensure our Nation has the safest, most efficient, and modern transportation system in the world.” But it is unfortunate that the federal government has to provide the funds in order for the transportation industry to emphasize safety over profits.
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