States, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and municipal governments are given a charge to provide safe, equitable, accessible, and resilient transportation networks, which has led to significant demand for data to support the planning efforts which underpin them. Federal funding in transportation has historically been highly construction-focused, but with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021 many new programs have been created to support planning efforts and data procurements that would have previously fallen entirely on local budgets. Each funding opportunity has different requirements and deadlines, but in this blog we break down the basics of what you need to know to receive federal grant funding for your community’s transportation infrastructure.
Safe Streets and Roads for All
The Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program is a discretionary program administered directly by the US Department of Transportation, providing an unprecedented $5B of appropriated funds to transportation-related projects through 2026.
SS4A funding revolves around creation or enhancement of a Safety Action Plan, which is a comprehensive safety plan aimed at reducing and eliminating serious injury and fatal crashes. Eligible uses for the funding are intended for efforts that target better safety outcomes for all transportation modes.
The following entities are eligible to apply for SS4A grant funding:
- Metropolitan planning organizations
- Counties, cities, towns, and transit agencies or other special districts that are subdivisions of a state
- Federally recognized tribal governments
- Multi-jurisdictional groups comprised of the above entities
Two streams of funding are available through SS4A:
- Action Plan Grants can be used for activities which directly assist in the process of developing or updating a comprehensive safety action plan by conducting outreach, data collection, analysis, or other related tasks. Supplemental Action Plan Activities grants can be similarly applied to support or enhance an existing comprehensive safety action plan.
- Implementation Grants have a minimum threshold of $5M for most applicants, and can be used to fund infrastructure, behavioral, and operational safety activities outlined in an action plan. Supplemental Action Plan activities can also be included in an Implementation Grant.
How to Apply for SS4A
Annual SS4A applications are generally open from May to September. To get the most up-to-date information on upcoming calls, sign up for email updates from the US Department of Transportation.
The following steps are required to submit a SS4A application:
- Review the USDOT SS4A grant page to open the latest Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO);
- Review the NOFO to determine your application type (Action Plan, Action Plan Supplement, Implementation, or Implementation + Action Plan Supplement);
- Navigate to grants.gov and search for SS4A using the Opportunity Number in the NOFO
(Note: if your organization does not already have a grants.gov account, you will need to create one);
- Select the application package (Action or Implementation) from the “Package” tab on the grants.gov SS4A page to download or begin; an Implementation package will only be eligible where a minimum budget of $5,000,000 is being requested;
- Complete the application and ensure you have attached any required supplemental documentation in your application.
If you have questions or require assistance submitting your application, reach out to Troy Simpson, AICP. Troy is a career transportation planner on staff at Ecopia who is happy to help navigate transportation grants and projects.
Carbon Reduction Program
The IIJA Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) requires every state to develop a carbon reduction strategy by November 15, 2023, and subsequently update that strategy every four years. This program enables states and MPOs to directly allocate $6.4B in federal funding through 2026 to projects that lead to the reduction of on-highway CO2 emissions.
Common examples of projects eligible for funding include the replacement of street lights with energy-efficient alternatives, the planning or construction of transportation alternatives, and other activities that further the development of a carbon reduction strategy.
Carbon Reduction Program Eligibility
IIJA introduced a new formula program for the allocation of CRP funds to states and MPOs. Generally speaking, 65% of funds will be allocated to each state and be split proportionally by the following urban classifications:
- Urban areas with a population greater than 200,000;
- Urbanized areas with a population between 50,000 and 200,000;
- Urban areas with a population between 5,000 and 50,000;
- Areas with a population of less than 5,000.
The remaining 35% can generally be allocated anywhere in a state. A full breakdown of funds can be found here.
For areas with a population of at least 50,000, the obligation authority of funds will lie with the MPO.
Receiving CRP Funding for your Project
While some existing projects related to reducing carbon emissions have been deemed eligible for CRP funds, the funding administrators may choose to solicit new opportunities for expenditure of these funds. To inquire about CRP funding for your project, reach out to the decision-making bodies of your MPO (if in an area with a population of 50,000+) or your state DOT (if in an area with a population of less than 50,000).
Ecopia’s staff transportation planner can help you determine the appropriate process for requesting CRP funding for your local agency where applicable. Get in touch here.
To address the effects climate change has on transportation network performance, IIJA introduces funding through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program. The PROTECT Program provides $8.7B in federal funding through 2026 to states and MPOs to enhance the climate resilience of transportation infrastructure.
Activities eligible for PROTECT funding include green infrastructure development, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and other improvements that enhance community resilience to extreme weather events.
PROTECT Program Eligibility
PROTECT has been allocated $1.4B annually on average through fiscal year 2026, distributed primarily by formula to states. States will be required to maintain a minimum 2% set-aside of their distribution for the purpose of planning activities. The USDOT will directly administer roughly $25M to $30M annually as a direct competitive program.
Similarly to SS4A, the PROTECT program is split generally between planning and construction-type activities:
- Planning Grants can be applied to assess vulnerabilities, plan transportation improvements, and develop emergency response strategies. Planning activities will receive a 100% federal share of funding!
- Competitive Resilience Improvement Grants can be used to protect surface transportation assets, coastal infrastructure, and natural infrastructure, as well as enhance community resilience strategies.
How to Apply for the PROTECT Program
The process for applying PROTECT funds which are allocated by formula toward a project will certainly vary by state, though generally states are encouraged to develop resiliency plans in conjunction with their MPOs. Reaching out through your MPO is a great first step to get connected to those who will be involved in the program. The USDOT direct applications could occur in any given fiscal year, for which you can sign up for updates from grants.gov.
Ecopia can help you navigate the PROTECT Program funding process. Reach out to our in-house transportation planner to get started.
Upcoming Federal Transportation Grants
The passage of the IIJA also authorized two upcoming federal grant opportunities for transportation-related projects. While these grants have not yet seen appropriated funds, state DOTs, MPOs, and municipalities can start exploring ways to apply them in the near future.
Healthy Streets Program
The Healthy Streets Program will provide grants for mitigating urban heat islands, improving air quality, reducing impervious surfaces, mitigating flood risk, and reducing heat impacts. The program is subject to appropriation in each federal fiscal year, but is intended to provide $500M through 2026, with a maximum single award of $15M.
Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program
The Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program will provide grants for projects related to safe and connected active transportation networks or spines. Through 2026, $1B will be provided to eligible organizations facilitating safe and sustainable transportation. Funds can be used for construction ($15M minimum) or planning purposes ($100K minimum).
To start planning your application for Healthy Streets or Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program funding, set up a call with Ecopia’s transportation team.
High-Precision Transportation Infrastructure Data
Geospatial data for use in transportation planning and infrastructure maintenance is one way many DOTs and MPOs are choosing to spend their IIJA funds. At Ecopia, we have developed advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-based mapping systems to extract high-precision vector data for transportation features from geospatial imagery. We frequently partner with state DOTs, MPOs, and municipalities to map the features they need to plan and apply for IIJA funding, eliminating the need for time-consuming and expensive manual digitization.
Examples of advanced transportation features Ecopia provides include:
- Left turn lanes
- Middle turn lanes
- Right turn lanes
- Slip turn lanes
- Through lanes
- Marked bike lanes
- Unmarked bike lanes
- Truncated domes
- Planting strips
- Painted medians
- Raised medians
- Medians with trees
- Street trees
- Tree canopy
- And more
To see how the largest county in the contiguous US leverages Ecopia data to improve transportation safety and accessibility, check out this case study.