FHWA Asks 25 Rural States to Submit Applications for $225 Million in Bridge Grants

September 6, 2018

The Federal Highway Administration yesterday published a funding notice in the Federal Register letting the 25 U.S. states with the lowest population densities know that they have until December 4 to submit applications for $225 million in bridge funding provided by the fiscal 2018 Transportation Appropriations Act.

That law provided that, of the extra general fund appropriations being made to FHWA:

$225,000,000, to remain available through September 30, 2021, shall be set aside for a competitive highway bridge program for States that have a population density of less than 100 individuals per square mile: Provided further, That the funds made available by the previous proviso shall be (1) used for highway bridge replacement or rehabilitation projects on public roads that demonstrate cost savings by bundling multiple highway bridge projects and (2) administered as if apportioned under chapter 1 of title 23, United States Code: Provided further, That for purpose of the previous two provisos, the Secretary shall calculate population density figures based on the latest available data from the decennial census conducted under section 141(a) of title 13, United States Code.”

The 25 states that qualify as having population densities under 100 p.p.s.m. are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Those states were invited to submit up to three applications each for bridge projects by midnight on December 4, 2018. The standard federal share of the cost of the project is up to 80 percent. For states on the sliding scale (due to large amounts of federally-owned lands in the state), the federal share of the cost of the project is up to 95 percent in accordance with 23 U.S.C. §120(b).

According to the funding notice, the selection criteria to be used by FHWA are:

  1. Innovation: “any innovative technologies, strategies, or financing approaches used to improve bridge conditions, restore bridge capacity and/or add bridge capacity, and expedite project delivery, and the anticipated benefits of using those strategies, including those corresponding to three key categories: (i) Innovative Technologies, (ii) Innovative Project Delivery, or (iii) Innovative Financing.”
  2. Support for Economic Vitality: “the anticipated outcomes of the project that support economic vitality.”
  3. Life-Cycle Costs and State of Good Repair: “(i) A description of the condition of the bridges to be replaced or rehabilitated” and “(ii) A description of the anticipated cost-savings of bundling bridge projects.”
  4. Project Readiness: “information that, when considered with the project budget information presented elsewhere in the application, is sufficient for FHWA to evaluate whether the project is reasonably expected to begin construction before the expiration of the period of availability of Competitive Highway Bridge Program funds, (September 30, 2021) and that all Competitive Highway Bridge Program funds will be expended by September 30, 2026.”

In addition to the selection criteria, the NOFO also goes into detail regarding the benefit-cost analysis to be used.

The new grant program is unusual in one respect – there are no minimum and maximum grant sizes, and no minimum or maximum per-state awards. So this set of funding grants will be interesting for how many bridge projects FHWA decides to approve, and where they are located.

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