On Tuesday, U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao announced $1.5 billion worth of Build Utilizing Investments to leverage Development (BUILD) transportation grants. She was joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jack Reed (D-RI), Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and David Price (D-NC), and Mayor Jamael Brown of Youngstown, Ohio at a US DOT event.
The BUILD Grant Program, formally known as TIGER, awards multimodal, discretionary grants to road, rail, transit, and port projects. Last year, Congress provided the program with $1.5 billion through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. This was sizable increase from the FY 2017 appropriations level of $500 million. Secretary Chao announced that 91 projects in 49 states and the District of Columbia received awards.
Rural communities in particular benefited from this round of BUILD awards. Together, rural communities received 62% of awarded projects. Applications from rural communities more than doubled from previous TIGER application rounds. Secretary Chao noted that these awards “rebalances a 10-year, historical underinvestment in rural communities.” Projects that bring broadband to rural communities were especially lauded, as were border security infrastructure projects and multimodal rail and port projects that are awarded funding this year.
Secretary Chao called BUILD a “down payment” on President Trump’s infrastructure proposal of $200 billion in direct federal investment. This sentiment was echoed by subsequent speakers. Sen. Collins remarked, “we can use much more,” after discussing projects awarded to her home state of Maine. Sen. Reed said he looked forward to “building on BUILD” in subsequent months in Congress.
The need for increased funding beyond BUILD was also echoed by application metrics. 851 eligible applicants from all 50 states applied for funding. Project applications totaled nearly $11 billion, demonstrating the oversubscription of the program.
ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, graded our nation’s bridges and ports, roads, and rail infrastructure a “C+,” “D,” and “B,” respectively. These grades reflect insufficient investment in key components of our nation’s infrastructure network. We continue to urge Congress and the Administration to act and find ways to rebuild and invest in our nation.