FTA Opens Applications for Initial $343M Tranche of Transit Station Accessibility Grants
Federal transportation officials this week announced the opening of an application round for a new federal grant program that will help agencies fund retrofits of subway stations to comply with decades-old accessibility requirements.
Through the All Stations Accessibility Program, or ASAP, the Federal Transit Administration will provide a total of $1.75 billion in discretionary grant funding, including $343 million for fiscal 2022, to help with such overhauls that bring stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The Biden administration announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the program on July 26, the 32nd anniversary of the passage of the ADA (Public Law 101-336).
Funding for ASAP grants comes from the massive Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enacted last year. The law provides an ongoing annual $350 million “advance appropriation” for ASAP through fiscal 2026.
“While our country has made enormous progress in the three decades since passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, too many people with disabilities still don’t have access to reliable public transportation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are modernizing some of our oldest public rail stations and ensuring that more Americans count on our transit systems to get where they need to go.”
According to the NOFO, grants will go to projects for “legacy” stations within fixed guideway rail systems — defined as stations built or under construction before the ADA’s new rules took effect in January 1992, or commuter rail stations built or under construction before October 1991 — that remain inaccessible or unusable for wheelchair users and other people with disabilities. While newer transit stations have been required to be built in compliance with ADA standards since 1992, more than 900 such legacy stations are still inaccessible today, according to the FTA.
ASAP grants can be used for projects to “repair, improve, modify, retrofit, or relocate” facilities or infrastructure for passenger use, help meet or exceed ADA building and facility standards, or fund planning efforts for such projects, including assessments of accessibility or planned modifications, according to the NOFO.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) sponsored legislation (S. 1680) in 2021 to create the program, to be located in title 49, United States Code and authorizing the eventual appropriation of up to $1 billion per year for the program. The Senate Banking Committee never acted on the bill, but as part of the bipartisan legislation that became the IIJA, the Senate Appropriations Committee created a temporary, 5-year program that is very similar to the Duckworth bill and gave it $350 million per year. (Compare the original Duckworth bill with the IIJA version that starts on statute page 1439 here.)
An Iraq War combat veteran and wheelchair user, Duckworth noted in a statement last August, “we’ve come a long way since the ink dried on the ADA more than 30 years ago, but we still have a long way to go to make this country truly accessible, including making sure that every American can use our nation’s public transportation systems.”
In its announcement Tuesday, the Biden administration said the grants will help to advance goals of promoting equity and reducing Americans’ dependence on personal vehicles.
“Equity depends on accessibility,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said in a statement. “FTA is committed to ensuring transit systems nationwide are available to people with disabilities and that they are able to use transit systems with the same ease and reliability as any other user.”
Some other key points from the NOFO:
- Local and state government entities are eligible to apply.
- Recipients of ASAP grants are required to obtain a 20 percent local match.
- Applications are due by Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.
- The agency will give priority consideration to projects that “advance racial equity” and “create good paying jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union.”
(8/2/2022: Corrected an earlier mis-statement: the original FTA summary was wrong when it said there was a $25 million grant maximum.)