Federal transportation funding opportunities 101

With the imminent passage of the transportation infrastructure bill that initially passed the US Senate in August, the discussion now pivots to implementation. Federal transportation funding is confusing. New guides from T4America can help you understand it.

jar of money
Image by Picture of Money via Flickr

The federal transportation program encompasses an enormous range of policies and regulations that guide the planning, design, implementation, operations, and maintenance, to the funding that sustains those programs. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the IIJA, or 2021 infrastructure bill) is the forthcoming reauthorization legislation that will guide the federal transportation program through at least late 2026. In the mix with the IIJA is the Build Back Better Act (the BBBA, or 2021 reconciliation bill), which has additional investments in sustainable and equitable transportation.

Between these two pieces of legislation (if the BBBA passes as it currently stands), record investment in transportation—clocking in at nearly $1 trillion—will be on the way. While the bulk of the new funding will just advance the status quo, these bills together also better acknowledge the need for climate change, equity, safety, and connecting communities. A little over $100 billion is for discretionary, competitive grants with a sizable amount of that funding supporting new transportation funding programs. The USDOT will be busy in the coming weeks and months fleshing out the administration, application, and distribution guidelines of these new funding programs. 

On top of that discretionary funding, there are established formula funding programs that have considerable but typically untapped flexibility for funding projects across the transportation infrastructure spectrum, such as the main source of highway funding going instead to certain transit projects.

To help make sense of it all, Transportation for America boiled down the funding opportunities across the federal transportation program with a focus on how much flexibility there is for transit, intercity rail, Complete Streets and EV infrastructure. You can read our funding guides here:

  • Public transportation
    • Operating
    • Capital
  • Passenger rail
  • Complete Streets / active transportation
  • EV infrastructure

T4America’s goal with these funding briefs is to provide a resource for agencies to be nimbly aware of the various funding sources for transportation investments beyond the status quo of highway expansion. Furthermore, advocates can leverage this information to inform their agency partners of such opportunities and push for transportation investments that support a state of good repair, safety over speed, and connecting people to economic opportunities and services. We will continue to provide opportunities on ways this legislation can better support our three key principles, so stay turned.

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