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BUILD: Funding Increase + Focus On Rural = Stiff Urban Competition

Posted @ Monday, May 21, 2018    By Mike Miller
Posted in [ Blog, Clients Only ] | 0 Comments

BUILD: Funding Increase + Focus On Rural = Stiff Urban Competition

The first round of the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program will provide $1.5 billion for infrastructure projects – three times the amount available in most rounds of TIGER.  Notwithstanding this increase, one might caution would-be applicants to think about other words that could be used to fill out the BUILD acronym: Better Understand Impacts (of) Limited Dollars.  The Administration’s emphasis on rural projects and limits on awards per state, coupled with the perception of a major increase in awards by way of increased funding availability, could potentially – and beguilingly – result in more competition and tighter funding for urban projects.

Rural set aside.  The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) sets aside not less than 30% of BUILD funding for rural projects ($450 million).  DOT staff has clearly indicated this is a minimum and it is possible rural projects will secure a much higher percentage – perhaps 50% or more.  Apparently DOT is looking back at funding distribution over the history of TIGER and will work to rebalance funding which is viewed as having been historically tilted heavily in favor of urban projects.


$150 million per state maximum.  This round limits awards to no more than $150 million total for a single state.  Mega urban projects could be constrained by this limitation.


Perception of increased opportunity.  Well-placed individuals recently pointed out the announcement of a major funding increase for BUILD is likely to result in a major increase in the number of applications submitted.  While BUILD will provide three times TIGER-level funding, the amount made available is still unimpressive when compared to the need.  Forty-one projects won grants totaling $487 million in TIGER 2017.  Approximately 420 applications totaling $6 billion were submitted.  The math shows TIGER 2017 covered just 8% of the aggregate amount requested. Out of the 420 applications, 120 applications totaling $2 billion were deemed “Highly Recommended” by the initial review team at DOT – the threshold requirement to enter the final rounds of consideration.  Approximately 250 applications were also deemed “Recommended.”  Many of the applicants receiving “Highly Recommended” and “Recommended” status will consider applying for BUILD funding. The well-publicized increase in program funding is also likely to prompt more first time applicants, presumably including more urban project applications. More applications, coupled with what could turn out to be near static funding for urban projects, means the chances to secure a grant for an urban project could remain the same or actually decrease.


Information on BUILD grants, including a link to the NOFO and other helpful information, is here.


Good Luck!

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