Transportation Funding 101

Formula and grant funding play a crucial role in the civil engineering industry, allowing for the development of innovative projects that improve infrastructure and support sustainable growth. Without these public funding sources, many engineering projects would not be possible.

While infrastructure funding has typically been legislated on a formula basis, in recent years, we have seen a significant increase in competitive application-based grants. They are often aimed at improving transportation, water, and energy systems. Infrastructure grants are typically awarded to state and local governments on a percentage match basis and provide funding as a reimbursement.

Leaders from our transportation planning and engineering practice often guide elected leaders through the various sources available to finance their desired projects. Here are some of the funding options available and examples of past projects that have utilized the funds:

Federal Funding

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides multiple funding programs that cover fiscal years 2022 through 2026. Most of the IIJA funding is distributed to states on a formula basis. The formula funds support programs that target a range of transportation categories from traditional road and highway development to transit, rail, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities. Sain’s traffic and roadway design teams have completed many projects funded through the IIJA’s formula programs. The road safety work we have completed for TDOT and ALDOT has typically been funded through either the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), Local Roads Safety Initiative (LRSI), or the High Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) program.

A portion of IIJA funding is reserved for competitive grants. Some of the most attractive programs for our municipal clients include Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE), Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A), and Reconnecting Communities. In 2022, Sain assisted the City of Enterprise, Alabama, and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham with applications for SS4A grants to fund planning for safer streets and roadways. The SS4A application process for fiscal year 2023 (FY23) is currently active, and applications are due by July 10, 2023. Local governments can apply directly for these grant programs without involvement from their state department of transportation.

State Funding (Infrastructure)

The State of Alabama offers grant funding for the improvement of highway and transportation facilities. The programs include Industrial Access Road (IA) grants, Rebuild Alabama Act (RAA), and Alabama Infrastructure Bank (ATIB). Sain secured both federal funds and an IA grant for the Prattville South Industrial Park road and bridge project.

Sidewalks and Trails Funding

Many local governments have a keen interest in funding for pedestrian facilities, so a special mention for this category of projects is worthwhile. There are multiple options for funding sidewalk and trail projects that come out of either IIJA or state programs. The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) can be used for sidewalks, walking and biking accommodations, trail heads, and other projects that improve the community and environment. The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) are options for low-cost projects. As a direct result of Sain’s work on the City of Mountain Brook’s Sidewalk Master Plan, the City received three TAP grants for improvements along Dunbarton Drive, Hagood Street, and Montclair Road.

Economic Development Administration (EDA) Funding

This local assistance program supports economic development, job creation, and attracts private investments in economically distressed areas. One such example is the American Rescue Act (ARA). Sain has assisted multiple cities with procurement of EDA grant funding including the Gadsden Airport Industrial Park, the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority’s Industrial Park Master Plan, and the Highway 21 Sewer Pump Station and Force Main project in Talladega.

Transportation funding sources target many different project types. We recommend our clients start by identifying the projects they need to accomplish their community’s goals, then seek counsel on which funding sources are best tailored to fit their project plans. Contact Sain Associates for further information.