AASHTO Journal, 25 March 2016
The Federal Highway Administration opened the process to award $15 million in a new grant program for states to test alternative revenue mechanisms for the Highway Trust Fund, and $60 million in grants for “cutting-edge” technologies that improve transportation safety, efficiency, system performance and return on investment.
The separate announcements on March 22 gave potential applicants about two months to respond. The FHWA said grant applications are due by May 20 for user-fee financing alternatives, while the innovative tech grant applications are due by June 3.
Congress included, in its new surface transportation law, the $15 million for this year as seed money to explore user fee-based revenue systems that differ from the motor fuel and other excise taxes that now go into the Highway Trust Fund but fall far short of covering its spending levels.
The five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act provides $15 million in fiscal 2016 for the surface transportation system funding alternatives program and $20 million a year for years 2017-20.
Many lawmakers want to permanently shore up that trust fund to avoid periodic fights on how to pay for its infrastructure investments, or to provide it with more revenue to boost project funding.
“What is clear is that more investment in transportation is necessary to prepare for increasing strain on the system in the upcoming decades,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “A reliable funding source is at the heart of a robust surface transportation system so commuters can get to their jobs, businesses can run their operations and freight shippers can move their goods.”
The FHWA said this new “Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives” grant program will fund projects to test the design, implementation and acceptance of user-based alternative revenue mechanisms. The grants are only available to states or groups of states, and the formal “notice of funding opportunity” represents the first solicitation of grant proposals.
“This program may help us identify new sources of revenue to make sure our transportation infrastructure remains strong,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Now is the time to begin finding new funding solutions to be ready for the expanded travel needs of a growing population.”
The FHWA said the advanced technology grants “are intended to improve the return-on-investment of safety, efficiency, system performance and infrastructure improvements, including the enhanced use of existing transportation capacity.” It said the awards may go to projects that use real-time traveler information, traffic data collection and dissemination, vehicle-to-infrastructure and various intelligent transportation technologies.
Foxx said the $60 million in advanced tech grants “will take technological innovation to a new level and help to make the entire transportation network more reliable for commuters, businesses, and freight shippers.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Nadeau said that new program, also funded in the FAST Act, “will help harness and support these technologies and push the boundaries of what is possible for the future of transportation in our country.”
The FHWA calls this the “Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program.” Here is its notice of funding opportunity.