INFRA Grants - Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects
With an eye on the success and popularity of TIGER discretionary grants, Congress created this grant program as part of the FAST Act multi-year surface transportation package. Formerly referred to as FASTLANE grants, the program has been renamed INFRA by the new Administration. It now emphasizes four priority policy areas: supporting economic vitality, leveraging federal funding, using innovative approaches to improve safety and deliver projects, and creating accountability for project outcome achievement. INFRA grants will target awards to projects that are at a high level of readiness and where local sponsors are heavily invested.
Program Eligibility, Funding, and Timing
The FAST Act authorizes this program at $4.5 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2016 through 2020, to be awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to eligible surface transportation projects. The program funds freight and highway projects of national or regional significance. Funds may be used for construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation of the facilities. Development phase activities are eligible uses of funds, including acquisition of property, environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, equipment acquisition, and operational improvements directly related to system performance. INFRA grants can be used to pay the subsidy and administrative costs of TIFIA loans. Applicants must be public entities.
INFRA differs from TIGER primarily in the intended scale of awards. Typical TIGER awards have been between $10 and $20 million. For large projects, INFRA grants must be at least $25 million, and for small projects the grants must be at least $5 million. Ninety percent of funds are reserved for large projects. Only $500 million of the total $4.5 billion in funding through 2020 can be used for grants to non-highway portions of freight rail, water or other freight intermodal projects. Congressional intent is for INFRA funds to go to large highway projects. Cost sharing is aggressive: INFRA grants can only be used for up to 60% of the eligible project costs, and total federal sources of funding for the project may not exceed 80%. Unlike TIGER, INFRA has a dedicated source of funding through 2020, and is not subject to the whims of Congressional appropriators each year. Like TIGER, INFRA requires that applicants provided a comprehensive narrative and quantitative cost-benefit analysis as part of their applications.
In 2016 over $759 million was awarded through 18 grants ranging from $5 million to $165 million. In the new cycle, the new Administration is combining 90% of the 2017 funding, and all the 2018 funding, into a single award pool of approximately $1.5 billion. Of this amount, up to $326 million remains available for non-highway investments. The next deadline for INFRA grant applications is November 2, 2017.
Interested parties should start by reviewing the new INFRA Notice of Funding Opportunity posted through U.S. DOT’s Build America Bureau. Seneca has supported numerous applicants through the process of pursuing federal competitive discretionary grants for transportation infrastructure projects. For more information on how we can specifically support your efforts to secure financing for your infrastructure project, please contact us.