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Leaders of Senate and House transportation committees released a list of 18 projects that are
targeted to receive $759.2 million in federal grants under the new Nationally Significant Freight and
Highway Projects program, with 11 of them going to state departments of transportation.
Under the FAST Act Congress passed in December, the U.S. Department of Transportation is required to submit in advance its list of planned project awards for the new Highway Trust Fund competitive grant program that the USDOT calls "Fastlane."
The USDOT submitted the list July 5 to the two authorizing committees - Environment and Public Works in the Senate and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - which have 60 days to review it before the department can issue them. The chairman and ranking minority members of those panels released the list July 6.
That process gives Congress final control of which projects receive federal funding. Some members of Congress have long complained that the USDOT's separate "Tiger" infrastructure grant program - which is paid for out of general revenue appropriations rather than the trust fund - leaves the administration too much discretion to choose award winners without prior congressional review.
The single-largest award on the list is $165 million to the Virginia DOT, to support a series of highway and rail projects in what VDOT calls its "Atlantic Gateway" program to improve mobility in the congested north-south Interstate 95 corridor.
One of the smallest was $5.1 million for improvements to Idaho's US 95 north corridor, a multi-agency effort sponsored by the Idaho Transportation Deparment.
Among the others, the National Park Service would receive $90 million to help pay for a major rebuilding project of the iconic but weight-listed Arlington Memorial Bridge in the nation's capital, which runs between Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and the Lincoln Memorial in the District of Columbia.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development's proposal for east-west I-10 freight corridor improvements would get $60 million. And the Arizona DOT was awarded $54 million for improvements in the I-10 Phoenix to Tucson Corridor.
Other state DOTs that made the list were those in California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New York, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Other grant winners were ports and cities, for projects that include putting more freight onto trains and for road-rail grade separations. Here is the complete list.
In a joint statement, EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., with T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said: "The demand for the Fastlane program has already far exceeded expectations," since this first year of the program drew 212 project applications seeking about $10 billion.
"This program is an important achievement of the FAST Act," they added, "and the response illustrates how critical freight and highway investments are to improving the movement of goods and reducing congestion."
Source: AASHTO Journal