Up to $848 million in funding is now available to help make intercity passenger rail, public transportation, ports, pedestrian facilities and highways more resilient to climate change impacts, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) reported April 21.
Applications for the first round of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s PROTECT (Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation) Discretionary Grant Program are due Aug. 18.
Administered by the USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the program’s aim is to “reduce damage and disruption to the transportation system and improve the safety of the traveling public.” It will prioritize “innovative and collaborative approaches to risk reduction—including approaches that harness the power of nature,” according to FHWA. These “nature-based solutions” include conservation, restoration, or construction of riparian and streambed treatments, marshes, wetlands, native vegetation, stormwater bioswales, breakwaters, reefs, dunes, and shade trees. FHWA said they “reduce flood risks, erosion, wave damage, and heat impacts while also creating habitat, filtering pollutants, and providing recreational benefits.”
Grant applicants at all levels of government—from local governments and Indian Tribes to state departments of transportation—may apply for the discretionary grant funding, which FHWA said comes on top of $7.3 billion in PROTECT formula funding that is already flowing to states.
Projects should be “grounded in the best available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts and vulnerabilities,” and “support the continued operation or rapid recovery of crucial local, regional or national surface transportation facilities,” FHWA reported. Planning projects will also be considered.
According to the Notice of Funding Opportunity, the federal share of a project’s cost may not exceed 80% of the total project cost.
“Every community in America knows the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, whether that means record rainfall in California; flooding up and down the Mississippi River; hurricanes venturing as far south as Puerto Rico and as far north as Delaware; or wildfires not limited to a defined season and becoming instead a constant threat to more and more Americans,” FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said. “This investment from the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure our infrastructure is built to withstand more frequent and unpredictable extreme weather is critical for communities counting on a road or bridge to be open for first responders, and it is critical for a business that must get its essential goods to shelves.”