Have Questions About IIJA Funding? We’ve Got Answers.

By Scott Wilson, PSS
Vice President of Development Services, Ayres

The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is a hot topic in the A/E industry and for many communities looking to have projects funded in this once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity. With funding flowing for roads, bridges, brownfields, water, and other municipal needs, there are more possibilities than ever for money from federal and state agencies to cover or defray the costs of your community’s projects. But where do you get started? And where can you find answers to some of the questions on this exciting but complicated funding prospect? Here’s a quick breakdown.

Q. I read that only about $559 billion of the $1.2 trillion is actually devoted to infrastructure. Is this true?

A. Only $559 billion is new infrastructure spending. The remaining $650 billion is existing spending from trust funds, like the Highway Trust Fund, with dedicated funding that is automatically raised, such as through the gas tax, and automatically allocated toward pre-existing programs. These trust funds operate on an ongoing basis and would continue with or without the IIJA, making it somewhat deceiving when you compare it to the total cost of the bill.

Q. How much of the IIJA is devoted to competitive grant funding vs. other methods of funding transportation projects?

A. The IIJA significantly increases the number of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-administered competitive grant programs for state, local, and tribal governments. Project criteria and funding match requirements will vary per program, and further federal guidance is expected this summer. This is a non-exhaustive program list and includes total nationwide funding authorized in the IIJA:

  • Bridge Investment Program ($12.5 billion)
  • Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) Program ($8 billion in new funding)
  • Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grants ($7.5 billion)
  • Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants ($500 million)
  • Rural Surface Transportation Grants ($2 billion)
  • Safe Streets and Roads for All Grants ($5 billion)
  • Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants ($2.5 billion)
  • Congestion Relief Program ($250 million)
  • Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grants ($400 million)
  • Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program ($1 billion)
  • Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program ($350 million)

Q. Is funding available for funding broadband extensions across the country?

A. The IIJA provides funding to four existing broadband programs: the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Fund (previously named the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund under the Consolidated Appropriations Act), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural e-Connectivity Broadband Pilot Program (ReConnect), broadband loans under the Rural Electrification Act, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The Affordable Connectivity Fund will subsidize broadband services to households while the ReConnect program, broadband loans, and Tribal Broadband Program will be distributed competitively.

Q. How is the Broadband Funding to be distributed?

A. Under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment State Grant Program, each state is estimated to receive an initial appropriation of $100 million. In addition, $32 billion will be distributed to states by formula, based upon the state’s share of unserved locations (as defined by federal law). An additional $4.2 billion will also be distributed by formula to states, based upon each state’s share of unserved locations in high-cost areas. “High-cost areas” are those areas where the cost of building out broadband service is higher than average, as determined by factors including remote location, lack of population density, topography, or poverty rates. The funds allocated under this program can be used to award competitive subgrants for the installation of internet and wi-fi infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, data collection and mapping, and providing internet-capable devices. The program requires states to match 25 percent of project costs, except in high-cost areas, for which no match is required.

Q. One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads and more than 43,500 bridges are in poor condition. How will the IIJA help?

A. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs for five years and invests approximately $400 billion over that period to repair our roads and bridges and support transformational projects that will create good-paying jobs, boost regional and the national economy, make our transportation system safer and more resilient.

Q. What is the key to writing a successful IIJA grant application?

A. An authentic and compelling story that communicates the importance – economic, environmental, and health – of your project is what captivates reviewers. Ayres has developed and used our storytelling skills purposefully in grant writing spaces, contributing to reviewers feeling included and connected, as well as confident that your project will bring about change and make your community more resilient.

Q. Is there IIJA funding available to address legacy contamination issues in America?

A. The short answer is YES! This funding falls into four major programs – (1) abandoned mine land reclamation ($11.3 billion), (2) orphan oil and gas well plugging, remediation and restoration ($4.7 billion), (3) Superfund site cleanup ($3.5 billion), and (4) brownfield remediation and revitalization ($1.5 billion).

Q. My community has many abandoned and eye-sore properties. Is there funding in IIJA to help us address those properties?

A. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, also known as IIJA, provides $1.5 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency to expand its existing brownfield remediation and revitalization grant programs. A total of $1.2 billion of the funding is for brownfield assessment grants, cleanup grants, technical assistance, environmental remediation job training, and reuse/economic revitalization. Over $300 million of the funds will flow to support state and Tribal brownfield clean-up programs.

Q. I heard that the IIJA for the first time in our history will now provide funding for Resilience. What types of funding will become available?

A. Millions of Americans feel the effects of climate change each year when their roads wash out, power goes down, homes are destroyed by wildfires, or schools get flooded. Last year alone, the United States faced 20 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each – a cumulative price tag of more than $145 billion. The IIJA makes our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks, with an investment of more than $50 billion to protect against droughts, heat, floods and wildfires, in addition to a major investment in weatherization. This bill contains historic funding for resilience to all hazards – including cyber, climate, and other threats communities face. Some of the most significant of these investments are: (1) Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grants ($8.7 billion), (2) Wildfire Management ($8.25 billion) (3) Investments in Resilience through the Army Corps of Engineers ($7 billion) (4) Western Water ($3.8 billion), (5) Flood Mitigation Assistance Program ($3.5 billion) (6) Weatherization ($3.5 billion) (7) Cybersecurity ($1.3 billion).

Q. Where do I begin to decide which of these IIJA funds will work for my community and how do I begin the process?

A. When developing strategies and writing grants, first consider implementation strategies with timelines and targets, coordinate with funding agency representatives to discuss and socialize your project(s) before submittal, leverage funds to minimize your out-of-pocket costs and generate a more profound impact, and ensure your project rises to the top of an agency’s priority list, even in the most competitive programs.

Whether you have everyday problems to solve or are dreaming big for the future, there’s a good chance there’s a grant out there to help – and Ayres can get you started.

Our latest Fresh Ayres podcast features commentary on what some of our experts who’ve worked in the funding arena have to say on this historic investment opportunity and what the money means for clients and communities. Check it out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or Audible.

About the Expert:

Scott Wilson, PSS, is Ayres’ vice president of development services, overseeing the firm’s environmental, planning, and landscape architecture operations. His efforts have helped shape the development services team into a group of experts with comprehensive experience in recovery and redevelopment of contaminated properties, driving projects from vision to cleanup to polished success stories.

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