Counties directly eligible for $5.5 billion in competitive infrastructure grants

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Key Takeaways

On June 27, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the availability of $5.5 billion in competitive funding through the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant Opportunity (MPDG), a package of three major grant programs for counties – Mega grants, Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight & Highway Projects (INFRA) grants and Rural Surface Transportation Block Grants (Rural STBG) – authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

Counties are directly eligible for funding and the deadline to apply is August 21, 2023. MPDG combines funding for FYs 2023 and 2024 and has a broad range of eligible surface transportation activities, many of which are outlined below.

In response to NACo feedback on the common application process, USDOT has continued to offer these grant programs through a single notice of funding, allowing counties to apply to all three programs using one application. This practice dramatically decreases the time and cost it takes to prepare a competitive application, and we applaud our intergovernmental partners at USDOT for continuing this commonsense practice.

Mega Grant Program

$1.8 billion is available through the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants program, more commonly known as Mega Grants. This program is reserved for the largest infrastructure projects, including highways, bridges and select public transit projects.

The federal share for Mega grants is 60 percent with other federal aid sources allowed to account for up to 80 percent of eligible project costs, making the local match 20 percent.

INFRA Grant Program

$3.1 billion is available through the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight & Highway Projects program, more commonly known as INFRA grants. This program is reserved for highway and rail freight projects, including projects to connect international borders with freight inspection facilities.

INFRA grants federal cost share is 60 percent with other federal aid sources allowed to account for up to 80 percent of eligible project costs, making the local match 20 percent.

Projects in states with less than 80 persons per square mile, based on the 2010 census, will use a sliding scale to determine a max federal share.

Rural Grant Program

$657 million is available through the Rural STBG. Eligible projects include those eligible under these programs:

  • Surface Transportation Block Grant
  • National Highway Performance Program
  • Tribal Transportation Program
  • Highway Freight Program
  • High-Risk Rural Roads (as defined by the Highway Safety Improvement Program)

Additionally, projects that provide or increase access to agricultural, commercial, and energy economies in rural areas and projects related to transportation demand systems are eligible for this program.

To be considered an eligible entity under Rural STBG, a county must meet the program definition of “an area outside an Urbanized Area with a population of over 200,000, as designated by the U.S. Census Bureau”.  The Rural Grant Program federal cost share is 80 percent and allows for counties to use other federal funding to cover 100 percent of the project cost. If the project is furthering the completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System or addresses a surface transportation infrastructure need identified for the Denali access system program, the Rural program can cover 100 percent of the costs.

Counties own and operate 45 percent of public roads and 38 percent of bridges while also directly supporting over a third of the nation’s public airports and transit systems. As intergovernmental partners, counties value federal funding opportunities like the MPDG that help counties meet our vast public infrastructure responsibilities and keep America’s transportation systems safe and efficient. Find additional USDOT resources on this opportunity here.

The table below outlines the programs covered by the MPDG opportunity, though it is important to read each NOFO carefully, noting that each program has its own minimum and maximum awards, restrictions and eligibilities.

SUB-GRANT

FUNDING LEVEL

ELIGIBLE PROJECTS

FEDERAL SHARE

Mega Grant Program

$1.8 billion

  • A highway or bridge project on the National Multimodal Freight Network 
  • A highway or bridge project on the National Highway Freight Network 
  • A highway or bridge project on the National Highway System 
  • A freight intermodal (including public ports) or freight rail project that provides public benefit 
  • A railway highway grade separation or elimination project 
  • An intercity passenger rail project 
  • A public transportation project that is eligible under assistance under Chapter 53 of title 49 and is a part of any of the project types described above 

60 percent (up to 80 percent with other federal assistance)

INFRA Grant Program

$3.1 billion

  • A highway freight project on the National Highway Freight Network
  • A highway or bridge project on the National Highway System
  • A freight intermodal, freight rail, or freight project within the boundaries of a public or private freight rail, water (including ports), or intermodal facility and that is a surface transportation infrastructure project necessary to facilitate direct intermodal interchange, transfer, or access into or out of the facility
  • A highway-railway grade crossing or grade separation project
  • A wildlife crossing project
  • A surface transportation project within the boundaries or functionally connected to an international border crossing that improves a facility owned by Fed/State/local government and increases throughput efficiency
  • A project for a marine highway corridor that is functionally connected to the NHFN and is likely to reduce road mobile source emissions
  • A highway, bridge, or freight project on the National Multimodal Freight Network 

60 percent (up to 80 percent with other federal assistance or unless states have < 80 persons per square mile)

Rural Surface Transportation Block Grant Program 

$657 million

  • A highway, bridge, or tunnel project eligible under National Highway Performance Program
  • A highway, bridge, or tunnel project eligible under Surface Transportation Block Grant
  • A highway, bridge, or tunnel project eligible under Tribal Transportation Program
  • A highway freight project eligible under National Highway Freight Program
  • A highway safety improvement project, including a project to improve a high-risk rural road as defined by the Highway Safety Improvement Program
  • A project on a publicly-owned highway or bridge that provides or increases access to an agricultural, commercial, energy, or intermodal facility that supports the economy of a rural area
  • A project to develop, establish, or maintain an integrated mobility management system, a transportation demand management system, or on-demand mobility services

80 percent (up to 100 percent)

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