Memorial Bridge, ports among projects slated to get transportation grants
By Melanie Zanona
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected over a dozen transportation projects to receive funding from a newly created competitive grant program, quickly drawing the praise of lawmakers who represent districts or states that will benefit from the fresh injection of infrastructure cash.
The DOT notified the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Environment and Public Works committees this week that the agency intends to award a total of $759 million in federal “FASTLANE” grants to 18 projects around the country.
Over 200 applicants were vying to receive a slice of the $800 million in funding authorized under the program, which Congress established in last year’s surface highway transportation bill to support nationally significant highway, bridge and freight projects.
There will be a 60-day review period before the agency can issue the awards.
“The demand for the FASTLANE program has already far exceeded expectations, receiving 212 applications for projects totaling roughly $10 billion, more than 10 times the available amount,” committee leaders said in a joint statement. “This program is an important achievement of the FAST Act, and the response illustrates how critical freight and highway investments are to improving the movement of goods and reducing congestion.”
Washington-area lawmakers said they were “very pleased” to announce that $90 million had been tentatively awarded to improve the decaying Arlington Memorial Bridge.
The bridge – which spans the Potomac River from D.C. to Arlington, Va., and is considered one of the most vulnerable structures in the federal system – needs a total of $250 million in repairs or else officials estimate that it will be forced to close in the next five years.
But the FASTLANE grant will help kick start the first phase of construction, lawmakers said in a joint statement.
“This significant federal investment will go a long way towards ensuring that Memorial Bridge remains open, which is welcome news for the region’s commuters,” said Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.)
A total of five port projects are slated to receive FASTLANE grants, including
$44 million for the Georgia Ports Authority, $42 million for the Massachusetts Port Authority and $10.67 million for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“This important project has the potential to massively reduce truck traffic and the pollution they bring, which is music to the ears of so many of our communities with sky-high asthma rates,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Thank you to the Department of Transportation for prioritizing this critical infrastructure project by awarding more than more than $10.6 million FASTLANE grant funds.”
Another prospective grantee is in Louisiana, where officials hope to use $60 million in federal funding to eliminate the only place in the nation where the interstate drops down to one lane.
“We made a commitment to get this bottleneck addressed and are excited that the resources are finally in place to fix this problem. This is a key step to solving some of the worse traffic in the nation,” said Louisiana Republican Garret Graves. “For too long, the people of South Louisiana have had to settle for talk. Today, we are getting action.”