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DOT allots $1 billion in latest round of infrastructure grants

Multibillion-dollar RAISE program for roads, rails, ports began under Obama

Port, rail, road projects eligible under RAISE grants: (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is laying out $1 billion in the latest round of a competitive grant program that began in 2009 for freight projects.

DOT published on Tuesday a Notice of Funding Opportunity to apply for money through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants, a renaming of what had been called “BUILD” grants under the Trump administration and “TIGER” grants under the Obama administration.

The Biden administration plans to prioritize projects that address racial inequity and climate change and create long-term, well-paid jobs.

“In communities across the country, there is tremendous need for transportation projects that create high-quality jobs, improve safety, protect our environment and generate equitable economic opportunity for all Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “With RAISE grants, we are making those needed investments in our communities’ future.”

Eligible projects for RAISE grants include, but are not limited to:

  • Road or bridge projects eligible under title 23.
  • Public transportation projects eligible under chapter 53 of title 49.
  • Passenger and freight rail transportation projects.
  • Port infrastructure investments, including inland port infrastructure and land ports of entry.
  • Intermodal projects.
  • Projects investing in surface transportation facilities that are located on tribal land and for which title or maintenance responsibility is vested in the federal government.

The maximum grant award is $25 million. No more than $100 million can be awarded to a single state, according to DOT. Up to $30 million will be awarded to planning grants, including at least $10 million to persistent-poverty areas. As was the case with BUILD grants, no more than 50% of the funding will be awarded to projects in either urban or rural areas.

Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), which lobbies on behalf of state DOTs, ports and freight corridors, sees the competitive grants as important for freight projects that do not fit into traditional public funding through formula transportation programs.

“There is a gap in terms of how freight projects can be addressed, and this grant funding allows project planners to address those needs for multimodal projects,” CAGTC President Leslie Blakey told FreightWaves.

Over the past 12 years, the program has awarded close to $9 billion for 678 infrastructure projects in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Annual funding has ranged between $474 million (2013) to $1.5 billion (2009 and 2018).

Blakey pointed out, however, that while CAGTC is a strong supporter of both RAISE and DOT’s affiliated competitive grant program INFRA, her coalition has been pushing for dedicated freight infrastructure funding that does not compete with other types of projects such as transit and pedestrian mobility.

“Freight does well in these grants, but there are needs in this country that are very specific to freight and the economic benefits that are derived from freight movement,” Blakey said. “These projects need to be competing with each other, not with things like people and mobility. Transit is a great thing, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for freight to be competing with transit because they’re serving very different constituencies, economically and practically. It’s apples and oranges.”

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.