The first year of the new freight-related grants under the five-year FAST Act has seen project sponsors seek nearly $9.8 billion in funding, the U.S. Department of Transportation said May 20. The only problem is that the 2016 grant pool is $800 million.
The USDOT announcement said that "huge wave of interest in the first year of this program . . . underscores the continuing need for infrastructure investment across the country."
The department calls this its FASTLANE grant program, an acronym for "Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies."
It differs from the USDOT's annual TIGER infrastructure grants in that the FASTLANE money comes from the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund, while TIGER awards are paid out of general funds.
And while the USDOT has broad discretion to spread TIGER funds across an array of projects to move people or freight, the FASTLANE program is focused on highway and multimodal projects that will improve the mobility of goods across the country.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the grants will have a clear economic impact. "Transportation creates jobs and makes jobs of the future possible," he said. "We know there is pent-up demand for projects that will speed up the delivery of goods and make America even more competitive."
In all, the department received 212 applications by its April 14 deadline, for 136 projects in urban areas and 76 rural projects.
"We're going to do our best to support high-impact transportation projects," Foxx said, "that will lay a new foundation for job creation and exporting American-made goods throughout the world."
The department began taking applications on March 14, which gave grant hopefuls one month to submit proposals. However, since the FAST Act continues the freight grants through fiscal 2020, projects that don't win federal support this year could still seek funding in future years.