U.S. DOT’s INFRA Grant Program
INFRA Grants – Nationally significant freight and highway projects
Congress created this grant program as part of the FAST Act multi-year surface transportation law. This program 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 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 in total for 2016 through 2020, to be awarded by the U.S. DOT to eligible surface transportation projects. The program funds freight and highway projects of national or regional significance. Congressional intent is for INFRA funds to mostly go to large highway projects. Funds may be used for construction, reconstruction or 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.
For large projects, INFRA grants must be at least $25 million and for small projects 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. Specifically exempted from this cap are investments in improving or eliminating road/rail at-grade crossings. Cost sharing requirements are aggressive: INFRA grants can only be used for up to 60% of the eligible project costs, and total federal sources of funding for a project receiving INFRA funds may not exceed 80%. INFRA has a dedicated source of funding through 2020. The form of application is very similar to the U.S. DOT’s BUILD grant program. Applicants must provide a comprehensive narrative and quantitative project cost-benefit analysis.
By 2019, of the $2.4 billion granted, the average small project award was $11 million, and the average large project award was $69 million. INFRA has made awards as large as $184 million.
Interested parties should start by reviewing the most recent Notice of Funding Opportunity posted on the INFRA web page of the U.S. DOT’s Build America Bureau. Seneca has assisted 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 through INFRA, please contact us.