The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has announced a competitive grant program that includes up to $225 million in funding for freight mobility projects. The Competitive Freight Program is designed to achieve four outcomes: 1) reduction of bottlenecks, 2) improvement of freight-related safety, 3) improvement of intermodal accessibility to and from freight corridors, and 4) deployment of technology.

Illinois has long been a leader on freight transportation issues and is often called the “gateway” of the nation. The announcement of available funding will continue to advance the state’s focus on streamlining and supporting freight projects and is part of the State Freight Plan.

The funds are part of the State of Illinois’ formula funds under the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act) and are allocated over a five-year period, with an average of $45 million per year. The funds can cover a wide variety of planning, engineering and construction work related to freight movement along roadways and rail. Funding can only be used for projects on the Primary Highway Freight System, designated Critical Urban Freight Corridors or designated Critical Rural Freight Corridors. For all other projects, the applicant must concurrently seek designation of the affected highway or corridor for eligibility.

While local, state or governmental entities are eligible applicants, IDOT explicitly and “strongly” encourages public-private partnerships, both as a demonstration of stakeholder investment and to leverage funding. As with most federally funded projects, there is an 80 percent-20 percent split, with the applicants needing to provide the 20 percent matching funds for a grant.

The deadline for submission of a grant application is April 6, 2018, and the state has indicated it plans to announce successful projects by June 1, 2018. More information about the Illinois Competitive Freight Program can be found on the IDOT website.