The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is taking applications for the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) Program, a streamlined program that combines the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program and the Neighborhood Access and Equity Program, which address harm from past infrastructure planning decisions, accelerate equitable community revitalization and improve access to everyday destinations. Both programs were created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act. The streamlined process will make it easier to submit an application and increase opportunity for communities that are seeking funding for projects.
“Transportation should never divide communities – its purpose is to connect people to jobs, schools, housing, groceries, family, places of worship and more. That’s what the Reconnecting Communities program and the Neighborhood Access and Equity program are designed to ensure,” said USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “By combining these two grant programs into a single application, we are making it easier for communities to seek and receive the funding they need to build better, safer, inclusive infrastructure for the future.”
The Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program was established in the IIJA to help fund community-led projects that mitigate physical barriers to mobility and access, such as train tracks or highways. The Inflation Reduction Act established the Neighborhood Access and Equity Program that similarly funds projects that remove physical barriers, as well as projects to improve walkability, safety and affordable transportation access, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
Available funding includes:
- $198 million for the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, of which:
○ $148 million for Capital Construction Grant funds
○ $50 million for Community Planning Grants, including funding for technical assistance
- $3.155 billion for the Neighborhood Access and Equity Program, of which USDOT expects to award up to:
○ $135 million to Community Planning Grants
○ $2.57 billion to Capital Construction Grants
○ $450 million to Regional Partnerships Challenge Grants, designed to incentivize regions to come together to leverage both federal, state and regional funding and policies to tackle problems.
In 2023, the USDOT awarded $185 million to 45 communities as part of the Reconnecting Communities Program, including six Capital Construction grants and 39 Community Planning grants. Later this summer, USDOT will be launching the new Reconnecting Communities Institute to provide communities and potential applicants with technical assistance. The first round of grants funded construction and planning for transformative community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined Complete Streets and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels and trails. The projects are helping to revitalize communities, provide access to jobs and opportunity and reduce pollution.
In addition to the funding available, USDOT has entered into a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to coordinate technical assistance efforts to plan and build infrastructure that reconnects and improves access, especially for marginalized communities. USDOT says working with philanthropic organizations like RWJF leverages additional resources and enables support to more communities and organizations that are working to provide people with better mobility options to facilitate community revitalization, catalyze equitable development and create access to more economic opportunities.
The combined Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) follows the model USDOT established for the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant Program, which combines funding opportunities for the National Infrastructure Project Assistance, Rural Surface Transportation and Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant programs. In 2022, USDOT piloted the combined NOFO for the three programs to make it easier for communities to apply to one, two or three major discretionary grant programs with a single application and a common set of criteria. USDOT notes it received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the streamlined process.
This program is covered under President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which sets the goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities.
The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 28. Applicants may find the RCN NOFO through USDOT’s website.