The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded $2.2 billion in grants through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program. The grants are awarded to 162 road, rail, transit and port projects that support national infrastructure objectives.
“This round of RAISE grants is helping create a new generation of good-paying jobs in rural and urban communities alike, with projects whose benefits will include improving safety, fighting climate change, advancing equity, strengthening our supply chain and more,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
The RAISE Program expanded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It continues to be popular with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 round of funding generating requests for $15 billion. Applicant projects were evaluated on how a project addressed and prioritized safety, environmental sustainability, mobility and community connectivity and quality of life.
Transit and passenger rail projects account for more than $425 million, nearly 19 percent, of the awarded funds. In FY22, transit projects accounted for more than 18 percent of RAISE grants and in FY21, transit projects accounted for more than 19 percent. If projects classified by USDOT as road projects with heavy transit elements are included, the total increases nearly $200 million, or approximately 27 percent.
For example, the Memphis Area Transit Authority was awarded a $25 million grant for its Crosstown Corridor Safety and Multi-Modal Enhancement Program, which USDOT classified as a road project. While the project will use the grant to fund complete street improvements such as sidewalks, intersection improvements and signalization, it will also greatly benefit transit users. The project supports service along a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor and will include enhancements to bus stations, traffic signal prioritization and ADA enhancements.
An example of a grant from the passenger rail awards is the $25 million that the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA), in partnership with Brightline West, will use to build stations in Victor Valley and Hesperia, Calif., for the planned high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga.
Dr. Raymond Wolfe, executive director of SBCTA, said the funding for the stations paves the way for a larger grant sought by Brightline West for the Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga project.
“This will provide a direct link between the High Desert, Rancho Cucamonga, downtown Los Angeles and our own East Valley, reducing the need to rely on personal vehicles for daily commutes, improving air quality and closing the live-work gap for millions of people. Along with other commuter projects either under way or under development, including the Arrow Line and the West Valley Connector bus rapid-transit system, Brightline West represents a cost-effective, 21st century solution to our region’s transportation challenges,” Wolfe said.
Sarah Watterson, president of Brightline West added, “The High Desert stations are an integral component to our 218-mile system and will connect millions of residents with America’s first true high-speed rail system. We’re moving towards a groundbreaking later this year, kickstarting one of the largest job creators in the country and setting the stage for a new era in transportation.”
In New Orleans, La., New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was awarded a $24.8 million grant for its final design and construction of the Downtown Transit Center and connecting transit corridor. The new bus terminal will provide safer connections between transit modes and improved rider conveniences and will also serve as the key downtown hub of the proposed BRT project, which will significantly shorten transit times for New Orleans East and West Bank riders.
“Federal partnerships are vital to the RTA’s commitment to creating world-class ridership that will connect our passengers from throughout Greater New Orleans,” said Lona Edwards Hankins, New Orleans RTA CEO. “This grant is a crucial step toward the creation of our Downtown Transit Center, which will serve as the heart of our service. I want to thank the Biden Administration and Congressman Troy Carter for their leadership and for recognizing the value of transit – not just as a service to riders but also as a driver of economic development to move our region forward.”
A full list of RAISE grant recipients is available at USDOT’s website.