White House, USDOT Tout Rural Infrastructure Funding

The White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation highlighted this week the more than $44 billion in funding available over the next five years for rural communities to rebuild and modernize roads, bridges, transit, ports, and airports under the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021.

[Above photo by USDOT]

To highlight IIJA funding opportunities for rural communities, the White House issued a 17-page “playbook” offering information on the “what, where, and how” for rural communities to apply for federal infrastructure dollars.

Photo via the USDOT

USDOT also announced that is has reconvened the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success or “ROUTES” Council to engage rural communities, distribute the IIJA’s new rural-focused funding, and coordinate a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to rural infrastructure investment.

Rural-focused funding recently outlined by USDOT includes:

  • Opened applications for the new Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program, which will provide competitive grants to state and regional transportation planning organizations, local governments, and Tribal governments to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas.
  • Issued funding to repair or replace bridges under the new Bridge Formula Program. This program has an important provision for rural communities, allowing the use of federal funds for full replacement costs for off-system bridges.
  • Announced funding for 11 states in the Appalachian Development Highway System.
  • Opened applications for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity or RAISE grant program, which offers 50 percent more funding in 2022 due to the IIJA. The infrastructure measure also reserves 50 percent of RAISE awards exclusively for rural areas, and rural communities are eligible for 100 percent federal funding with no local match required.
  • Released a toolkit to help rural communities access funds available through National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure or NEVI formula program, with nearly $5 billion over five years available to help states create a network of electric vehicle charging stations particularly along the Interstate Highway System.

USDOT noted that rural and tribal communities are “essential to the success” of the United States yet face “significant challenges,” especially in regards to infrastructure. Currently, 13 percent of rural roads and just over 10 percent of off-system bridges — most of which are in rural areas — are in poor condition.

USDOT added that the fatality rate is two times higher on rural roads than urban roads, while rural residents are less likely to have feasible alternatives to driving, and therefore face disproportionate transportation costs and barriers to jobs, schools, and stores if they lose the ability to drive.

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