News & Updates

Funding Opportunity: USDOT Rebuilding America (INFRA) Program for Fiscal Year 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) published the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the FY21 round of the INFRA grant program. A press release by USDOT can be found here. The full NOFO, to be posted in the Federal Register soon, can be found here. The portal to submit INFRA grant applications is open and applications will be due by March 19, 2021.

Availability of Funds

The NOFO makes available $889 million in FY21 funds for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program awards. USDOT notes that up to $150 million in prior year authorizations may be used for this year’s grant awards. Through the one-year FAST Act extension enacted in 2020, approximately $146 million remains available. As a reminder, grade crossing and grade separation projects do not count toward the limit for freight rail, port, and intermodal projects. For multimodal projects, only the non-highway portions will be counted toward this cap.

Award Specifications

  • 10% of total INFRA funding is reserved for small projects (award size of at least $5 million) and 90% will go toward large projects (award size of at least $25 million).
  • At least 25% of funds must be awarded to projects in rural areas.

Significant Changes Compared to the FY20 NOFO

  • Two additional merit criteria have been added: 1) climate change and environmental justice, and 2) racial equity and reducing barriers to opportunity.
    • Climate change and environmental justice
      This criterion will be used to identify projects that: encourage a modal shift in freight or passenger movement to reduce vehicle miles traveled; incorporate electrification infrastructure and/or zero-emission vehicle infrastructure; reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions; support the installation of electric vehicle charging stations along the NHS; promote energy efficiency; and incorporate resiliency measures for disaster preparedness.
    • Racial equity and reducing barriers to opportunity
      • USDOT will evaluate if the investments are being made to either proactively advance racial equity and barriers to opportunity or redress prior inequities and barriers to opportunity, including whether projects
  • The NOFO emphasizes consideration of project labor agreements and local hiring as important aspects of economic vitality and innovative project delivery.
  • The innovation merit criterion has been expanded to include technology such as vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and electrification.
  • Projects will also receive a freight rating. The rating will be three tiered, based on the share of quantifiable benefits which are attributable project impacts to freight movement. A project for which 20% or more of the quantifiable benefits are attributable to project impacts on freight movement will be designated as having substantial freight benefits; projects within a 5-20% range will be designated as having moderate freight benefits; projects for which less than 5% of the quantifiable benefits fall into this category will be designated as having incidental freight benefits
  • The NOFO establishes the “INFRA Extra” Program, which will identify competitive INFRA applicants who do not receive an INFRA award and authorize them to seek a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) loan of up to 49% of their project cost rather than the typical 33%. USDOT notes that an “INFRA Extra” project designation does not guarantee that an applicant will receive TIFIA credit assistance nor does it guarantee that any award of TIFIA credit assistance will be equal to 49% of eligible project costs.