The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is awarding 13 grants totaling $3.4 million through the new Rural and Tribal Assistance (RTA) Pilot Program. Administered by the Build America Bureau, the RTA grant program supports early-stage development of transportation solutions in rural and Tribal communities, with grants funding technical, legal and financial assistance. The bureau received 406 applications requesting more than $127 million in funding. Of those, 70 applications totaling $19 million were submitted from Tribal applicants.
"The sheer number of applications received, and amount of funding requested demonstrates the tremendous need for funding communities that have historically been left out of federal investment opportunities,” said USDOT Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “This is great progress in our mission to help our rural and Tribal partners realize their visions for safer and more efficient transportation options.”
“The Bureau is excited to work with these new partners to jump-start local projects and better position them to compete for USDOT grants and explore innovative funding, financing and delivery solutions,” said Build American Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian. “The response to this funding opportunity was astounding and has highlighted how impactful the program will be for our rural and Tribal communities. This is just the beginning.”
The RTA program, created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, allocates $10 million during the next five years to provide technical assistance for projects in rural and Tribal communities. The grants, which require no local match, may be used to hire staff or advisors to assist with early development-phase activities, including feasibility studies, preliminary engineering and design, environmental review, revenue forecasting, financial feasibility analysis, statutory and regulatory analysis and drafting and negotiation of agreements.
The Build American Bureau used a streamlined, simple application form and reviewed applications on a first-come, first-served basis. The approach reduced the burden on applicants new to or inexperienced with the federal grant process and the numerous forms traditionally required for federal grants. As part of the administration’s commitment to advancing equity and opportunity for all American Indians, Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Home Lands, USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg set a goal to increase engagement with Tribes on a government-to-government basis that respects the principles of Tribal self-governance. To ensure equitable opportunity for Tribal governments to access the RTA grants, the Build American Bureau reserved up to $1.6 million for Tribal applicants under the solicitation.
USDOT is looking to invest federal RTA funds into:
- City of Elkhorn, Wis., for the design and reconstruction of Centralia Street and bicycle lane addition
- Contra Costa County, Calif., for the design and estimations of the Vasco Road Corridor Safety Improvements project
- Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Calif., for the design of a separated pedestrian pathway and lighting for connected communities
- Karuk Tribe, Calif.,- Tribal Transit Feasibility Study and Design for improved transit services
The entire list of selected awardees can be found on USDOT's website.