Substantial portions of the funds available under Division A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Stimulus Package Act) are earmarked for investments in transportation infrastructure and efficiency improvements. The Stimulus Package Act provides over $49 billion in funding for improving national transportation infrastructure, including highways, railroads, and airports, with the majority of those funds allocated to highway infrastructure investments.
Funds Distributed via Immediate Agency Action
Various government agencies are charged with quickly distributing the funds allocated to them under the Stimulus Package Act. At least 50 percent of the funds are expected to be distributed for projects that can be initiated in less than four months. Formula grants will be awarded within 30 days and competitive grants will be awarded within 90 days of enactment. Since most of the funds are not earmarked for particular projects, federal agencies will decide which projects to finance. Agencies are directed to give preference to projects that can be started and completed expeditiously, and to distribute funds in a manner that maximizes job creation and economic benefit.
The Stimulus Package Act requires that immediately following the Act's enactment the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other federal agencies must post to www.recovery.gov their plans for distributing the funds available to them, including grant competitions, allocations of formula grants, and awards of competitive grants.
Summary of Transportation Infrastructure Investments
The majority of transportation infrastructure investments will be allocated to the DOT for distribution. Transportation infrastructure investments under the stimulus package include (in billions): see table
The funds allocated to Highway Infrastructure Investments will be apportioned to the states no later than 21 days after the date the legislation is enacted. Priority will be given to projects scheduled for completion within a three-year time frame, and located in economically distressed areas.
When Federal Railroad Administration investments are distributed, priority will be given to projects that support the development of intercity high-speed rail service. Within 60 days of the enactment of this legislation, the DOT will submit a strategic plan describing how funds will be used to improve and deploy high-speed passenger rail systems. Of the $1.3 billion investment in Amtrak, $450 million will be used for capital security grants given to projects for the repair, rehabilitation, or upgrade of railroad assets or infrastructure, and for capital projects that expand passenger rail capacity. None of these funds may be used to subsidize Amtrak's operating losses.
To expedite distribution, most of the investments in Public Transportation will be allocated to existing initiatives. Distributions to Transit Capital Assistance will go to the Urbanized Area Formula Grant Program, authorized by section 5307 of Title 49 of the United States Code, to be used for public transportation maintenance, planning, improvements, and equipment operating costs. Of this funding, $100 million will be distributed as discretionary grants to public transportation agencies for capital investments that will assist in reducing the energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions of their public transportation. Funds allocated to Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment will be used to modernize existing guideway systems through the initiative authorized by Section 5309(b)(2) of Title 49 of the United States Code. Funding for Capital Investment Grants will be distributed to other public transportation projects, as authorized by Sections 5309(d) and (e) of Title 49 of the United States Code.
Capital Investments in Surface Transportation funding will be distributed as discretionary grants to be awarded to state and local governments or transit agencies on a competitive basis for projects that will significantly impact the nation, metropolitan areas, or regions.
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
Title VI of Division B of the Stimulus Package Act directs the Department of Commerce ("DOC") to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The purposes of the program are to stimulate the demand for broadband, economic growth, and job creation, and to provide and improve access to broadband service to consumers residing in unserved or underserved areas of the United States, and to provide education and support to:
- a wide variety of schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, colleges, and community support organizations to facilitate greater use of broadband services by or through these organizations;
- organizations and agencies that provide broadband support service for low-income and other vulnerable populations; and
- job-creating strategic facilities within an economic development, empowerment or similar zone or district designated by an appropriate state or federal agency.
The program is also to support, improve access to, and use of, broadband service by public safety agencies.
The legislation provides for consultations between the DOC and the states with respect to the allocation of grant funds, among other things, and to establish and implement the grant program as expeditiously as practicable to ensure that all awards are made before the end of fiscal year 2010 and that projects are substantially completed within two years following an award. To be eligible for a grant under the program, an applicant must be, among other eligible entities, one or more of the following: (A) a state or political subdivision, a territory or possession, an Indian tribe; or (B) a nonprofit organization; or (C) any other entity, including a broadband service or infrastructure provider, that the DOC finds by rule to be in the public interest. The Stimulus Package Act allocates $4.3 billion to this program, dividing a portion of the amount among the various purposes outlined above.
In sum, capitalizing on the funding in the Stimulus Package Act may create critical opportunities for your business.