USDOT Grant Program Will Prioritize ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Equity’ - Streetsblog

The U.S. Department of Transportation is re-branding one of its largest discretionary grant programs in order to reward regional and local governments who put “equity” and “sustainability” first in their transportation projects. But some advocates are holding their applause until they see how the department defines those critical terms.

The department announced yesterday that it will rename a controversial Trump-era program as the “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE)” program, and will for the first time actively “prioritize projects that can demonstrate improvements to racial equity,” as well as those that mitigate the effects of climate change and create good-paying jobs, which were selection criteria in earlier incarnations of the program.

That could be a critical shift for one of the few federal grant opportunities that’s made available directly to city and regional governments, many of which struggle to find funding for transit, biking and walking improvements from autocentric state transportation authorities.

Under the last administration, RAISE — then known as BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) — primarily funded rural highway projects, heavily favoring states that President Trump carried in the 2016 election. BUILD was itself a rebranding of the Obama-era TIGER program (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), which primarily funded sustainable transportation infrastructure before Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, diverted most funds to drivers.

Some advocates and transportation professionals applauded the reboot, and expressed appreciation for a new provision that will set aside for planning grants $30 million of the $1 billion allocated to the program, with $10 million of that going to areas of persistent poverty.

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