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By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last month announced the award of $1.5 billion in 2018 grants through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program to support rail, transit, road and port infrastructure projects.
The USDOT created the BUILD program last year to replace the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program that was introduced in 2009. In April 2018, the department published a notice of funding opportunity for $1.5 billion in BUILD discretionary grants.
As has been the case in prior years, the demand for grants in 2018 vastly exceeded the amount of dollars available, with applicants requesting a combined total of $10.9 billion. Eligible applications — which totaled 851 — came from all 50 states, as well as from U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, USDOT officials said in a press release.
Ninety-one projects were awarded funds in 49 states and D.C.
Of the $1.5 billion, 66 percent — or $977 million — went to projects that have a freight component, according to the Coalition for America's Gateways & Trade Corridors (CAGTC). Non-highway freight projects received 20 percent of the total funds, coalition officials said in a press release.
The dollar amount of grants awarded to freight-related projects established "a new high for the percentage of funding awarded to freight infrastructure, besting a previous record set earlier in 2018 by TIGER IX, which awarded 56 percent of total funds for goods movement infrastructure," CAGTC officials said.
Forty-nine percent — totaling $3.5 billion — of dollars granted under the 10 rounds of BUILD/TIGER program have gone to projects designed to improve infrastructure for the movement of goods, they added.
Competitive grant programs such as BUILD "provide an invaluable tool for critical freight infrastructure projects, which are often large in scale, crossing multiple jurisdictions and modes," said CAGTC Executive Director Elaine Nessle.
Among coalition members that obtained 2018 BUILD grants was the Washington State Department of Transportation, which will receive
$5.7 million. The department will use the grant for a rural rail rehabilitation project in Whitman, Lincoln and Spokane counties. The project is designed to improve sections of the 298-mile state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City Rail System by replacing or rehabilitating 10 bridges, replacing 4.6 miles of rail and rehabilitating 20.8 miles of track.
Other recipients and their grant amounts included:
• Springfield, Illinois, which received $22 million to make rail improvements on two bridges, trackwork and grading and drainage work;
• Vermont Agency of Transportation, which received $20 million to rehab or replace 31 bridges along 53 miles of the Vermont Rail System;
• Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, which obtained $20 million to rehab 15 bridge structures along the Coos Bay Rail Line; and
• Ohio Rail Development Commission, which received $20 million to construct the Appalachian NGL pipeline-to-rail transloading facility in Hannibal.