WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday announced $1.2 billion in federal funds to be distributed to nine projects qualifying for a new grant program created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The projects — several of which are expected to speed freight through major highway arteries — are too big or complex for traditional grants funded, for example, through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.
Instead, the money comes from discretionary grants provided by the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance (“Mega”) grant program. Eligible projects include highway, bridge, freight, port, passenger rail and public transportation projects.
“After receiving over 100 applications, we are proud to fund these nine infrastructure megaprojects across the country to create jobs, strengthen our supply chains, expand our economy and renew America’s built landscape,” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
Requests totaling $30 billion competed for $1 billion available in the first round of funding. Applications were evaluated based on several criteria, including safety, ability to return transportation infrastructure to a state of good repair and economic benefits such as the creation of quality jobs, supply chain resiliency, environmental sustainability, climate resiliency and project readiness.
One of the biggest winners was the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, which received $250 million from the program. Considered a critical freight corridor and a major national truck bottleneck, the bridge received $1.4 billion earlier this year from the first round of Large Bridge Grants, another program created by the infrastructure law.
Rehabilitation of the bridge received renewed attention in 2020 after a high-profile truck crash shut it down for days. The Mega award money will fund construction of a new bridge alongside the existing one to relieve congestion and improve travel time reliability, according to DOT.
Another freight bottleneck, the Calcasieu River Bridge on Interstate 10 between Lake Charles and Westlake, Louisiana, will receive $150 million toward replacing the 70-year-old bridge. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development expects the value of truck freight moved in the region the bridge will serve to grow from $13.5 billion in 2020 to $28.2 billion in 2050. “The new bridge will relieve congestion and improve regional mobility, supply chain efficiency and safety,” DOT stated.
In addition, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) was awarded $85 million for its Interstate 44 and U.S. Route 75 Corridor Improvements Project. Congestion and poor safety along the corridor contributes to unreliable transit times, according to ODOT.
“ODOT estimates that by reducing congestion and improving travel time and reliability, 6.9 million hours of excess vehicle delay will be eliminated over the life of the project,” DOT noted. “According to ODOT, by 2045 the project is expected to save 1,193 hours of delay for passenger vehicles and freight each workday.”