Funding: Total: $889,000,000. Maximum awards: $5M-$800.1M, depending on project.
Dates: Application Submission Deadline: March 19, 2021
The INFRA program provides Federal financial assistance to highway and freight projects of national or regional significance. To maximize the value of FY 2021 INFRA funds for all Americans, the Department is focusing the competition on transportation infrastructure projects that support six key objectives: (1) Supporting economic vitality at the national and regional level; (2) Addressing climate change and environmental justice impacts; (3) Advancing racial equity and Reducing barriers to opportunity; (4) Leveraging Federal funding to attract non-Federal sources of infrastructure investment; (5) Deploying innovative technology, encouraging innovative approaches to project delivery, and incentivizing the use of innovative financing; and (6) Holding grant recipients accountable for their performance. This NOFO’s focus on the six key objectives does not supplant the Department’s focus on safety as our top priority. Consistent with the R.O.U.T.E.S. initiative, the Department seeks rural projects that address deteriorating conditions and disproportionately high fatality rates on rural transportation infrastructure.
Project Topic Areas:
Supporting Economic Vitality
A strong transportation network is critical to the functioning and growth of the American economy. The nation’s industry depends on the transportation network to move the goods that it produces, and facilitate the movements of the workers who are responsible for that production. When the nation’s highways, railways, and ports function well, that infrastructure connects people to jobs, increases the efficiency of delivering goods and thereby cuts the costs of doing business, reduces the burden of commuting, and improves overall well-being. This objective aligns with the Department’s strategic goals of (1) investing in infrastructure to ensure mobility accessibility and to stimulate economic growth, productivity, and competitiveness for American workers and businesses and (2) reducing transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries across the transportation system.
Climate Change and Environmental Justice Impacts
The Department seeks to select projects that have considered climate change and environmental justice in the planning stage and were designed with specific elements to address climate change impacts. Projects should directly support Climate Action Plans or apply environmental justice screening tools in the planning stage. Projects should include components that reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency, incorporate electrification or zero emission vehicle infrastructure, increase resiliency, and recycle or redevelop existing infrastructure.
Racial Equity and Barriers to Opportunity
The Department seeks to use the INFRA program to encourage racial equity in two areas: (1) planning and policies related to racial equity and barriers to opportunity; and (2) project investments that either proactively address racial equity and barriers to opportunity, including automobile dependence as a form of barrier, or redress prior inequities and barriers to opportunity. This objective supports the Department’s strategic goal related to infrastructure, with the potential for significantly enhancing environmental stewardship and community partnerships, and reflects Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (86 FR 7009).
Leveraging of Federal Funding
The Department is committed to supporting increased investment in infrastructure from all levels of government. The Department recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated infrastructure funding challenges faced by State and local governments. However, the Department continues to seek to optimize all available Federal and non-Federal funding for investment in infrastructure as a critical contribution to the economy.
The Department seeks to use the INFRA program to encourage innovation in three areas, to build transformative projects: (1) the deployment of innovative technology and expanded access to broadband; (2) use of innovative permitting, contracting, and other project delivery practices; and (3) innovative financing. This objective supports the Department’s strategic goal of innovation, with the potential for significantly enhancing the safety, efficiency, and performance of the transportation network. The Department anticipates INFRA projects will support the integration of new technology and practices and demonstrate how those technologies and practices will contribute to the goals of the program.
Performance and Accountability
The Department seeks to increase project sponsor accountability and performance by evaluating each INFRA applicant’s plans to address the full lifecycle costs of their project and willingness to condition award funding on achieving specific Departmental goals. To maximize public benefits from INFRA funds and promote local activity that will provide benefits beyond the INFRA-funded projects, the Department seeks projects that allow it to condition funding on specific, measurable outcomes. For appropriate projects, the Department may use one or more of the following types of events to trigger availability of some or all INFRA funds: (1) reaching construction and project completion in a timely manner; or (2) achieving transportation performance targets that support economic vitality or improve safety.
This NOFO solicits applications for the $889 million in FY 2021 INFRA funds available for awards. In addition to the FY 2021 INFRA funds, amounts from prior year authorizations, presently estimated at up to $150 million, may be made available and awarded under this solicitation. The Department will make awards under the INFRA program to both large and small projects. For a large project, the FAST Act specifies that an INFRA grant must be at least $25 million. For a small project, including both construction awards and project development awards, the grant must be at least $5 million. For each fiscal year of INFRA funds, 10 percent of available funds are reserved for small projects, and 90 percent of funds are reserved for large projects. INFRA grants may be used for up to 60 percent of future eligible project costs. Other Federal assistance may satisfy the non-Federal share requirement for an INFRA grant, but total Federal assistance for a project receiving an INFRA grant may not exceed 80 percent of future eligible project costs. The minimum project size for large projects is the lesser of $100 million; 30 percent of a State’s FY 2020 Federal-aid apportionment if the project is located in one State; or 50 percent of the larger participating State’s FY 2020 apportionment for projects located in more than one State. For a small project to be selected, the Department must consider the cost-effectiveness of the proposed project and the effect of the proposed project on mobility in the State and region in which the project is carried out.
Eligible projects for INFRA grants are: highway freight projects carried out on the National Highway Freight Network; highway or bridge projects carried out on the National Highway System (NHS), including projects that add capacity on the Interstate System to improve mobility or projects in a national scenic area; railway-highway grade crossing or grade separation projects; or a freight project that is 1) an intermodal or rail project, or 2) within the boundaries of a public or private freight rail, water (including ports), or intermodal facility. A project within the boundaries of a freight rail, water (including ports), or intermodal facility must be a surface transportation infrastructure project necessary to facilitate direct intermodal interchange, transfer, or access into or out of the facility and must significantly improve freight movement on the National Highway Freight Network. Improving freight movement on the National Highway Freight Network may include shifting freight transportation to other modes, thereby reducing congestion and bottlenecks on the National Highway Freight Network. For a freight project within the boundaries of a freight rail, water (including ports), or intermodal facility, Federal funds can only support project elements that provide public benefits.
An application may describe and request funding for a network of projects, in which one INFRA award that consists of multiple projects addressing the same transportation problem. The USDOT may award funds for a component, instead of the larger project, if that component (1) independently meets minimum award amounts and all eligibility requirements, including the requirements for large projects; (2) independently aligns well with the selection criteria; and (3) meets National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements with respect to independent utility. If an application describes multiple components, the application should demonstrate how the components collectively advance the purposes of the INFRA program. An applicant should not add multiple components to a single application merely to aggregate costs or avoid submitting multiple applications. To encourage applicants to prioritize their INFRA submissions, each eligible applicant may submit no more than three applications as the lead applicant. If a lead applicant submits more than three applications as the lead applicant, only the first three received will be considered. There is no limit on applications for which an applicant can be listed as a partnering agency.
Eligible applicants for INFRA grants are: (1) a State or group of States; (2) a metropolitan planning organization that serves an Urbanized Area (as defined by the Bureau of the Census) with a population of more than 200,000 individuals; (3) a unit of local government or group of local governments; (4) a political subdivision of a State or local government; (5) a special purpose district or public authority with a transportation function, including a port authority; (6) a Federal land management agency that applies jointly with a State or group of States; (7) a tribal government or a consortium of tribal governments; or (8) a multi-State or multijurisdictional group of public entities.