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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program that includes more than $318 million in grant funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.

FRA seeks to collaborate with private, state and local investments on rail projects.  Grants will assist projects that improve intercity passenger and freight rail transportation safety, efficiency, and reliability. This program does NOT fund positive train control systems deployment; PTC was funded under a separate NOFO published in May.

The CRISI grant program directs at least 25 percent of available funds towards rural communities.  Also, selection preference will be given to projects with a 50% non-federal funding match from any combination of private, state, or local funds. The Department will also consider how well the project aligns with key Departmental objectives including supporting economic vitality; leveraging federal funding; preparing for life-cycle costs; using innovative approaches to improve safety and expedite project delivery; and holding grant recipients accountable for achieving specific, measurable outcomes.

FRA will host a webinar on August 8, 2018; a link to the webinar is here

Applications for capital projects funding under this solicitation are due no later than 5:00 p.m. EDT, up to 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register. The NOFO is here.

The US Department of Transportation released a guidance document on completing a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) associated with BUILD grant applications.  The PDF document is here.

 

DOT notes the information provided in applicant BCAs will be used to help ensure that the available funding under the programs is devoted to projects that provide substantial economic benefits to users and the nation as a whole, relative to the resources required to implement those projects. DOT staff has noted in application debriefs that applicants should utilize BCA information within the application narrative to strengthen the case for the project rather keep the BCA and the narrative separate.

For 2018 BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grants, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is offering a series of special topic webinars that delve into various aspects of the BUILD application process. These webinars are recorded and are a resource for anyone considering applying to BUILD this year or those preparing a BUILD application, as the webinars come from the funding source and share the expertise of USDOT to prospective applicants.  The webinars are here.

On June 5 the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Appropriations Subcommittee (THUD) approved its FY2019 appropriations bill including funding for transportation infrastructure development.

 

The bill provides $71.4 billion in discretionary spending for DOT, Housing & Urban Development, and other agencies.  Funding for the entire bill is $1.1 billion above FY2018 enacted levels. The bill will go to the full Senate Appropriations Committee on June 8.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is issuing a final rule describing new, experimental procedures to encourage increased project management flexibility, more innovation in project funding, improved efficiency, timely project implementation, and new project revenue streams for public transportation capital projects. A primary goal of this final rule is to address impediments to the greater use of public-private partnerships and private investment in public transportation capital projects. FTA anticipates using the lessons learned from these experimental procedures to develop more effective approaches to including private participation and investment in project planning, project development, finance, design, construction, maintenance, and operations.

 

The final rule’s effective date is June 29, 2018.  The final rule is here.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $25.8 million in grant funds to support comprehensive planning associated with new fixed guideway and core capacity improvement projects.  Applications are due July 23, 2018.
Mulvaney Not Onboard With House BUILD and CIG Approps
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney expressed misgivings about several transportation provisions included the House version of the FY 2019 Transportation HUD (THUD) Appropriations bill passed last week in subcommittee.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported on May 17th that US scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.8 % more workers in March 2018 than a year ago. This was the highest monthly full-time equivelent (FTE) employment total (434,243 FTEs) since December 2004 (436,909) and the 53rd consecutive month of exceeding the same month of the previous year.
The first round of the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program will provide $1.5 billion for infrastructure projects – three times the amount available in most rounds of TIGER.  Notwithstanding this increase, one might caution would-be applicants to think about other words that could be used to fill out the BUILD acronym: Better Understand Impacts (of) Limited Dollars.  The Administration’s emphasis on rural projects and limits on awards per state, coupled with the perception of a major increase in awards by way of increased funding availability, could potentially – and beguilingly – result in more competition and tighter funding for urban projects.

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