USDOT awards nearly $1.2 billion in Mega grants

Feb. 1, 2023
The funding includes more than $517 million awarded to four passenger rail and transit projects.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded nearly $1.2 billion to nine infrastructure projects through the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) discretionary grant program.

The Mega Program was established under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to fund large, complex projects, including highways, bridges, freight, port and passenger rail and public transportation. The IIJA includes a total of $5 billion through Fiscal Year 2026 for this program.

"From the Hoover Dam to the Golden Gate Bridge, some infrastructure projects are so large and complex they defy traditional funding systems—and so significant they become iconic parts of the American landscape,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “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.”

This first round of funding through the Mega Program includes more than $517 million awarded to four projects involving passenger rail or public transit.

“Providing the necessary investment to modernize our public transit and passenger rail systems will allow agencies across the country to meet growing community demands for increased mobility choices that will reap economic and environmental benefits nationwide,” said American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “These historic investments in our country’s public transportation infrastructure will enable our communities to provide access to opportunities and create family-wage jobs, advance equity and tackle climate change.”

The largest Mega grant was awarded to Amtrak, $292.17 million, for the Hudson Yards Concrete Casing, Section 3, which is a component of the Hudson Tunnel Project and part of the Gateway Program to improve reliability and speeds throughout the Northeast Corridor.

Metra also secured a large grant of $117 million for the Metra UP North Rebuild: Fullerton to Addison project, which will see the replacement of 11 bridges, four miles of track and more than 1.75 miles of retaining walls along Metra’s Union Pacific – North (UP-N) Line. The UP-N Line connects downtown Chicago with suburban Cook and Lak counties and Kenosha, Wis.

The bridges on Metra’s UP-N Line are 120 years old and have surpassed their functional lifespan. Not only will the new structures reduce maintenance and operating costs, but they will enhance the line’s resiliency and reliability. Metra estimates the project will reduce passenger delay by 38 million hours during the next 30 years. In addition to the Mega grant, the project is being funded with Rebuild Illinois Bond Funds and a State of Good Repair grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The city of Philadelphia will receive $78 million for the Roosevelt Boulevard Multimodal Project, which aims to improve a 12.3-mile stretch of Roosevelt Boulevard with traffic signal upgrades, reconfigured intersections and roadways, new business access, transit lanes and complete streets improvements. The corridor is served by 10 Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority buses and work on the project will improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and road users, as well as improve sustainable transportation infrastructure.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will receive $30 million for the Watsonville-Cruz Multimodal Corridor Program. Caltrans, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) and Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Santa Cruz Metro) are partnering on the project that will support bus on shoulder access on Highway 1 to allow transit vehicles a chance to pass congestion and improve on-time performance and reliability of regional bus routes.

“Obtaining federal funding provides affirmation that our Corridor is of national significance, which is expected to facilitate securing future State and Federal grants. This multimodal project aligns with our shared goals of climate action, healthy communities, safety and equity,” said RTC Executive Director Guy Preston.

The grant will support Santa Cruz Metro’s purchase of four zero-emission buses for its regional routes. The project will also improve auxiliary lanes, and bicycle and pedestrian overcrossings between Freedom Boulevard and State Park Drive, including a 1.25-mile segment of the Coastal Rail Trail.

“This project closely aligns with our goals of climate action and resiliency,” added Santa Cruz Metro CEO Michael Tree. “We’re taking a critical step toward our long-term vision to decrease congestion, increase efficiency and reduce vehicle miles traveled while supporting a safer and more sustainable community.”

Additional projects awarded grants through the Mega Program include:

  • $250 million awarded to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, with Ohio Department of Transportation for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project
  • $150 million to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge Replacement Project
  • $60 million to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for Improvements to the I-10 Freight Corridor project
  • $110 million to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the Strengthening Transportation Evacuation Resilient Lifeline by Improving the Network’s Grid project
  • $85 million to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for the I-44 and US-75 Corridor Improvements Project.

The first round of Mega grant funding made $1 billion available through a funding opportunity, which opened for applications in March 2022. USDOT says it received applications requesting approximately $30 billion in funding with the nine projects selected based on criteria that included safety, ability to return transportation infrastructure to a state of good repair, economic benefits like the creation of quality jobs, supply chain resiliency, environmental sustainability and climate resiliency, equity, innovation, project readiness and cost-effectiveness.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.