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Rural Areas to Get Federal Funding Boost in New Transportation Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters building in Washington, D.C. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

The new BUILD program will replace Obama-era TIGER grants.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $1.5 billion in federal discretionary grant funding that’s part of a new program that will replace existing Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, better known as TIGER.

The replacement program, Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, will devote at least 30 percent of its grant award funding to transportation projects in rural areas, according to the department.

“BUILD Transportation grants will help communities revitalize their surface transportation systems while also increasing support for rural areas to ensure that every region of our country benefits,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a department announcement.

According to the announcement:

Projects for BUILD will be evaluated based on merit criteria that include safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership, and additional non-federal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments. To reflect the Administration’s Infrastructure Initiative, DOT intends to award a greater share of BUILD Transportation grant funding to projects located in rural areas that align well with the selection criteria than to such projects in urban areas.  The notice highlights rural needs in several of the evaluation criteria, including support for rural broadband deployment where it is part of an eligible transportation project.

In the initial round of BUILD Transportation grants, the maximum grant awarded will be $25 million. Additionally, no single state can get more than $150 million in funding through the program, as specified through the the fiscal 2018 Appropriations Act.

The popular TIGER grant program, launched in 2009 during the Obama administration, has awarded around $5.9 billion in grants. In March, the Trump administration awarded nearly $500 million in TIGER grant funding to 41 infrastructure projects in 43 states.

The Transportation Department plans to host a series of upcoming technical assistance webinars on the BUILD program starting in late May for interested applicants.

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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