USDOT Gives Out Final Installment of FAST Act INFRA Grants

USDOT Gives Out Final Installment of FAST Act INFRA Grants

June 19, 2020  | Jeff Davis

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced 20 additional projects that will share $906 million in funding under the INFRA surface transportation grant program for fiscal year 2020. This brings the total funding provided for the program over the five-year life of the FAST Act of 2015 to $4.1 billion, spread amongst 94 projects.

“This Administration is focused on infrastructure improvements and this $906 million in federal funding will improve major highways, bridges, ports, and railroads across the country to better connect our communities, enhance safety, and support economic growth,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The full list of fact sheets describing each project is here.

In one of the largest grants in the history of the program, Louisiana will get a $135 million to elevate 8.3 miles of Louisiana Highway 1 from Leeville northwards to Golden Meadow (hometown of Nolty Theriot). This will complete the LA 1 Relocate project, which has already elevated the highway from Leeville to Port Fourchon. The non-elevated LA 1 gets inundated with water more and more frequently, limiting access to Port Fourchon. In a bit of an irony, access to Port Fourchon has to be guaranteed against rising sea levels because it is America’s major fossil fuel port, servicing most Gulf of Mexico oil production. (Although, things have been sinking into swamps since long before climate change – see Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) The project is located in the district of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).

Other major projects include:

  • $79.5 million to rebuilt a wharf at an intermodal container facility in the Port of Houston,
  • $73.7 million to complete 12 miles of highway projects in the Puget Sound area of Washington State,
  • $71.5 million to complete the U.S. 82 Greenville Bypass in Mississippi,
  • $65 million to upgrade Interstate 46 in Rhode Island,
  • $60.7 million to upgrade Interstate 70 near Vail, Colorado,
  • $56.8 million to upgrade the interchange of Interstate 95 and SR 896 in Newark, Delaware,
  • $55.2 million to widen the Mountain Parkway in Wolfe County, Kentucky, and
  • $50 million to reconstruct the interchange of Interstate 15 and Tropicana Avenue, right behind the Excalibur on the Las Vegas Strip. (No word on whether or not the reconstruction will affect the In-N-Out Burger that is currently jammed into the northwest corner of that interchange, but In-N-Out locations should be given some kind of special treatment in transportation planning and permitting, if they don’t have one already.)

Since Kentucky got the 8th-largest grant this year, and since there is a persistent myth that Kentucky gets more discretionary grant money from USDOT than it would otherwise be entitled to because Secretary Chao is married to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), let us point out that, terms of capita distribution of this year’s grant money, Kentucky did well, but not rock star well. Per capita INFRA funding for selected, smaller states are below:

 FY20 INFRA 2019 Census INFRA
State  Grant Award  Est. Population Per Capita
RI $65,000,000 1,059,361 $61.36
DE $56,807,160 973,764 $58.34
LA $135,000,000 4,648,794 $29.04
MS $71,460,000 2,976,149 $24.01
AR $40,000,000 3,017,804 $13.25
KY $55,150,000 4,467,673 $12.34
CO $60,700,000 5,758,736 $10.54
WA $73,664,340 7,614,893 $9.67

Now that the FY20 grants are announced, we can get a picture of the cumulative program over the five-year life of the FAST Act from fiscal 2016-2020. The first round of the program, in FY16, was given out by the Obama Administration, and the subsequent rounds were selected by the Trump Administration. The difference was most pronounced in the urban-rural split – 65 percent of the Obama Administration’s FY16 awards (then called FASTLANE) went to projects in urban areas, but since then, the Trump Administration has only put 45 percent of program funding towards urban projects.

Urban Rural
# Amount Pct. # Amount Pct.
FY 2016 10 $490,671,763 65% 8 $268,528,237 35%
FY 2017 small 2 $15,565,600 20% 8 $63,314,400 80%
FY 2017-2018 13 $681,986,553 44% 13 $853,333,447 56%
FY 2019 8 $391,196,741 46% 12 $464,753,259 54%
FY 2020 8 $424,806,430 47% 12 $481,193,570 53%
TOTAL 41 $2,004,227,087 48% 53 $2,131,122,913 52%

The FAST Act also differentiated between large projects (the focus of most of the program), and smaller projects, for which 10 percent of total program funding was set aside. Over the life of the program, the average (mean) size of a grant for a large project was $67.7 million, and the average size of a grant for a small project was $10.6 million.

 FASTLANE/INFRA Large/Small Grant Split to Date
# of Total Grant Average
Announced Grants Awards Grant Size
FY 2016 Small July 2016 7 $75,920,000 $10,845,714
FY 2016 Large July 2016 11 $683,280,000 $62,116,364
FY 2017 Small August 2017 10 $78,880,000 $7,888,000
FY 2018 Small June 2018 6 $82,530,000 $13,755,000
FY 2017-2018 Large June 2018 20 $1,452,790,000 $72,639,500
FY 2019 Small July 2019 10 $85,595,000 $8,559,500
FY 2019 Large July 2019 10 $770,355,000 $77,035,500
FY 2020 Small June 2020 6 $90,600,000 $15,100,000
FY 2020 Large June 2020 14 $815,400,000 $58,242,857
Subtotal, Small 39 $413,525,000 $10,603,205
Subtotal, Large 55 $3,721,825,000 $67,669,545
TOTAL, FY 2016-2019 GRANTS 94 $4,135,350,000 $43,993,085

The FAST Act also provided that, over the five-year FY16-FY20 period, up to $500 million of the aggregate total could be used for intermodal, rail freight, and private freight terminal projects. (This could either be the entirety of a grant or a portion of a grant). The Obama Administration used $173 million of this $500 million total in 2016, and after a slow start, the Trump Administration put $112 million towards these projects in 2020, meaning that the cumulative five-year total was $480 million, leaving $20 million of the $500 million limit still on the table.

INFRA Grants – the $500 Million Five-Year Cap on Intermodal, Rail Freight, and Private Facility Grants in 23 U.S.C. §117(d)(2)(A)
FY 2016 $173,445,075
FY 2017 1st Tranche $52,255,615
FY 2017-2018 Remainder $74,647,471
FY 2019 $67,583,000
FY 2020 $112,124,257
Total Used $480,055,418
Not Used $19,944,583
TOTAL LIMITATION $500,000,000

The Senate highway bill (S. 2302) would continue the INFRA program at an average of $1.1 billion per year and would change the $500 million five-year aggregate to 30 percent of program total, which would be about $1.7 billion over the 2021-2025 duration of the bill. The Senate bill would also set aside $500 million for Interstate highway exchange projects in low-population-density states and another $500 million for projects in high-population density states. The House transportation bill (H.R. 2) would replace the highway- and freight-focused program with a much more broadly purposed Projects of National and Regional Significance program.

The full list of FY20 INFRA grants is below.

State Location Project Name Grant Award Project Cost INFRA share
AR Pulaski & Lonoke Counties U.S. 67 Corridor Improvements (Future I-57) $40,000,000 $246,899,901 16%
CO Eagle County I-70 Vail Pass Safety and Operations Improvements $60,700,000 $140,400,000 43%
DE Newark I-95 and SR 896 Interchange $56,807,160 $153,955,320 37%
FL Tampa Port Tampa Bay Container Berth 214 and Cargo yard $19,862,930 $55,000,000 36%
KY Wolfe County Mountain Parkway Expansion $55,150,000 $110,300,000 50%
LA Lafourche Parish LA 1 Improvement Project Phase 2 $135,000,000 $445,000,000 30%
ME Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, and Somerset Counties Freight Reliability Actions for Maine Project $38,146,500 $63,577,000 60%
MI Port Huron Blue Water Bridge Plaza Expansion $25,000,000 $298,700,000 8%
MN Ramsey Ramsey Gateway (Highway 10/169) Project $40,000,000 $138,000,000 29%
MS Washington County Greenville Bypass Freight Corridor Improvement $71,460,000 $144,100,000 50%
NC Cleveland, Columbus, and Robeson Counties US 74 Corridor Opportunities for Rural Efficiency & Safety $25,000,000 $237,381,000 11%
NV Paradise I-15 and Tropicana Interchange Improvements $50,000,000 $192,980,000 26%
OK Rogers County Rural Industrial Park Rail Switching Enhancement $6,189,327 $11,135,910 56%
RI Lincoln, North Smithfield, and Providence Safety and Congestion Improvements on I-46 $65,000,000 $150,000,000 43%
SC Rock Hill I-77, New Exit 81 Interchange $34,597,743 $88,150,000 39%
TN 10 countes on I-40 between Nashville and Memphis I-40 Smart Fiber: Memphis to Nashville $11,200,000 $32,000,000 35%
TX Harris County Barbours Cut Restoration and Upgrade $79,472,000 $198,680,000 40%
WA King and Pierce Counties Puget Sound Gateway Program $73,664,340 $1,909,000,000 4%
WI Saulk and Columbia Counties Merrimack Bridge Rehabilitation and Span Replacement $6,750,000 $13,500,000 50%
WV Tucker County Corridor H – Segment 5 (Kerens to Parsons) $12,000,000 $60,600,000 20%
TOTAL, FY20 GRANTS $906,000,000 $4,689,359,131 19%
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