Editor's Note: This blog post is updated regularly as new programs and funding opportunities become available to community planners.
The passage of the landmark Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act saw the largest direct investment in community planning in a century — and marked the culmination of APA's years-long effort to reform and renew the nation's current surface transportation law.
Beyond a full five-year transportation reauthorization, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), as the new law is more commonly known, includes support for new and expanded programs in four key areas:
- Climate change and resilience
- Transit, active transportation, and pedestrian safety
- Regional planning
- Planning for emerging needs and technologies
Planners will play an integral leadership role in helping communities and regions successfully access available federal funds through these competitive programs. For additional guidance, the DOT Navigator from the U.S. Department of Transportation is a new resource to help communities understand applying, planning, and delivering on projects.
Here are five+ federal funding opportunities created by BIL — and available to planners now — that every community planner should know about.
Climate and Resilience Planning Programs
Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT)
This new, first-of-its-kind federal formula program aims to help communities better prepare their transportation infrastructure for a rapidly changing climate. With both formula and competitive funding, the program includes $140 million for planning.
Importantly, communities can use PROTECT to improve the resilience of transportation networks serving underrepresented communities.
Carbon Reduction Program
The new program aims to help states and localities create transportation emission reduction strategies and targets, providing them $6.4 billion in formula funding over five years. With 65 percent of funding suballocated to regions and localities, CRP gives metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) authority to allocate funding within regions.
CRP supports a wide range of projects including public transportation projects, micro-mobility and electric bikes, and charging infrastructure.
Biking, Walking, Transit, and Safety Planning Programs
This new equity-focused program aims to restore community connectivity by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating highways or other transportation facilities that create barriers to community connectivity, including to mobility, access, or economic development. The $1 billion authorized over five years through BIL includes $50 million for planning grants and $145 million for capital construction grants in fiscal year 2022.
Technical assistance is a key component of this program and will provide hands-on planning support to economically disadvantaged communities with the greatest need. The technical assistance program — formally known as Thriving Communities — is a joint U.S. Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Transportation effort. Thriving Communities offers two years of deep-dive to selected communities to help them plan and develop a pipeline of comprehensive transportation, housing, and community development revitalization activities. Interested applicants must submit a letter of interest together with community partners by December 6.
APA anticipates additional technical assistance will soon be made available for transportation projects that aim to restore community connection through the Inflation Reduction Act.
Detailed guidance for planning and construction grant applicants
Transportation Alternative Program
BIL expanded and reformed this critical program which supports smaller biking and walking projects. Importantly, BIL increased the size of the transportation alternatives set aside to 10 percent of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, or $1.38 billion, up from $850 million last year.
With the passage of the new law, MPOs have access to a greater share of funding — 59 percent — and new criteria for advancing equity as well as new set asside financial support for technical assistance.
Highway Safety Improvement Program
This program, which aims to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads, saw an increase in funding to $15.5 billion over five years. Importantly, HSIP uses planning to target vulnerable populations and the areas of greatest need. Planning and assessment of vulnerabilities is a requirement to be eligible for funds, and funding will be directed to locations identified in the plans and assessments. With a 2 percent of funding earmarked for statewide planning, the program supports safety projects ranging from protected bike lanes to Safe Routes to School initiatives.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
Under BIL, CMAQ was expanded, and for the first time, micromobility is explicitly an eligible use. Communities may now use CMAQ funding on bikeshare and shared-scooter systems as well as for the purchase of medium- or heavy-duty zero emission vehicles and related charging equipment. Distributed by state departments of transportation, planners have an opportunity to engage with state leaders to secure funding for newly eligible micromobility projects.
While the first round of funding was released at the end of 2021, the second round is expected soon.
Safe Streets and Roads for All
This program aims to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries by helping local governments, MPOs, and tribal governments develop and implement comprehensive safety action plans. SS4A is a discretionary program with $5 billion in appropriated funds over the next five years. This is one of the largest new investments directly in planning. Importantly, the action plan and implementation grants available through this program can connect and extend the Vision Zero planning efforts underway in many communities.
Planners need to remain advocates for this program as its funding will be part of the annual appropriations process and local governments are directly eligible for funding. While the first round of applications is closed, it is intended to be an annual program.
Planning for Emerging Needs and Technologies
Earlier this year, the Biden Administration announced $5 billion for a new Electric Vehicle Formula Program to provide money to build electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Electric vehicle charging is eligible for funding through the existing Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) and allows for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles in the CMAQ Improvement Program.
The program requires states to submit an EV deployment plan before they can access the funds. State deployment plans were submitted and approved earlier this year. The new program also calls for a new joint US Department of Transportation and Department of Energy EV charging office.
Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program
The program will offer up to $100 million in grants annually over the next five years and will fund projects that use data and technology to solve real-world challenges facing communities today. The SMART program will fund purpose-driven innovation and focus on building data and technology capacity and expertise. MPOs are eligible to apply.
Detailed guidance for grant applications
Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Program
ATTAIN aims to improve safety and reduce travel times for drivers and transit riders. ATTAIN-eligible projects will be evaluated on how they consider climate change and environmental justice impacts — including how they reduce transportation-related air pollution and address the disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities. In addition, projects are evaluated on their economic impact and potential to create jobs.
APA expects detailed guidance on ATTAIN grant opportunities soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Pasi is APA's public affairs manager.