Congress heeded the call by Secretary Anthony Foxx and others, and enacted the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act last December. It is the first authorization act in a decade that provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment. Over the past several months since the enactment of the FAST Act, DOT has moved rapidly to implement the Act as quickly and effectively as possible. Below are highlights of the Department’s many implementation accomplishments to date.
OUTREACH & GUIDANCE
Stakeholder Meetings - Since passage of the FAST Act, DOT has engaged stakeholders through roundtables, on-line forums, and meetings on targeted topics, including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program, Project Delivery, Accessibility, Planning, Freight, and Bicycle/Pedestrian infrastructure.
Guidance and Fact Sheets – DOT issued more than 25 guidance documents, over 100 Q&As, and close to 50 fact sheets that provide critical information regarding implementation of FAST programs and provisions.
- Websites - Information on https://www.transportation.gov/fastact has been available since the FAST Act’s passage so that the public and stakeholders have easy access to documents.
Upon passage of the FAST Act, DOT quickly awarded as much available funding as possible to States and other grantees to maximize the impact of FAST nationwide.For example, about $40 billion (92%) of FHWA funds were apportioned to States in early January
In addition, DOT has already issued several notices for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding opportunities have already been issued:
UTC Grants - On March 1, we announced the availability of $377.5 million over the next 5 years for grants to support solution-oriented transportation research at colleges and universities under our University Transportation Center (UTC) Program. The UTC program allows students and faculty to work together toward innovative solutions to the challenges that face our transportation system, such as those outlined in our “Beyond Traffic” study. Funding for FY 2016 provides for awards totaling approximately $72.5 million. Applicants must submit a letter of intent by April 1 and an application by May 13.
FASTLANE Grants – On March 2, competition began for $800 million in grants that will fund critical freight and highway projects across the country. FASTLANE grants are an opportunity to fund high-impact projects that address key challenges affecting the movement of people and freight. These applications are due on April 14.
TIFIA Loan Program – On March 11, $300 million was made available for TIFIA loans, which represents approximately $3 billion in lending authority. Building on Secretary Foxx’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative, TIFIA loans are now available to support Transit Oriented Development projects. Letters of interest for TIFIA are due on April 11.
ATCMTD Grants – On March 22, competition began for $60 million in grants for the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program, to fund cutting-edge transportation improvement technologies that will improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment. The awards may be used for projects that use real-time traveler information, traffic data collection and dissemination, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and an array of other dynamic systems and intelligent transportation system technologies. These applications are due on June 3.
STSFA Grants – On March 22, $15 million in grants became available to States under the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) Program to test alternative revenue mechanisms to help sustain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. This program may help identify new and reliable sources of revenue to make sure our transportation infrastructure remains strong. These applications are due on May 20.
FTA Bus and Low-No Program Grants - On March 28, we announced the availability of $211 million for the Buses and Bus Facilities Discretionary Grant Program (Bus Program) and $55 million for the Low or No Emissions Bus Discretionary Grant Program (Low-No Program), both of which build on Secretary Foxx’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative. Funds awarded for the Bus Program will finance capital projects for bus and bus-related facilities. Funds awarded for the Low-No Program will finance the purchase or lease of low or no emission vehicles that use advanced technologies for transit revenue operations.
In order to expedite our implementation efforts, DOT assembled several multimodal teams to address cross-cutting key issues and programs. Examples of accomplishments to date:
Upon passage of FAST, DOT identified required rulemakings including those related to safety. Progress toward implementing those rules, as well as a continued effort related to MAP-21 rulemaking include the following:
Civil Penalties Rule - NHTSA issued a final rule which became effective on March 17 that raises civil penalty maximums for violations of motor vehicle safety – now up to $21,000 per violation with a $105 million aggregate cap.
Highway Safety Grants - NHTSA is drafting an Interim Final Rule to be published later this Spring to implement new and amended highway safety grant programs for FY 2017.
PM and HSIP Rule – On March 15, FHWA issued two final rules related to safety—the first updated the rule for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and the second established the performance measures for the program. Both rulemakings were initiated to implement MAP-21 requirements, but requirements from FAST were incorporated to expedite implementation. The new performance measures in this rule will help State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations make investment decisions that will result in the greatest possible reduction in fatalities and serious injuries.
Drug-Impaired Driving Report – Today, NHTSA issued a required report to Congress on actions taken to increase public awareness of the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
Bridge Inspection Reports – Immediately after passage of FAST, FRA initiated a process to collect and distribute railroad “Bridge Inspection Reports” upon request from Federal, State and local leaders. Such reports include date of last inspection and a general statement of the condition of the bridge, providing additional transparency to the public and stakeholders.
MCSAP Working Group - The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) is a formula-based grant program that provides critically needed support to State agencies engaged in commercial motor vehicle safety related activities. On January 19 FMCSA solicited nominations for the MCSAP Formula Working Group which will be comprised primarily of State representatives to research and propose an updated MCSAP formula.
The freight provisions in the FAST Act provide opportunities to begin to address the many challenges outlined in DOT’s “Beyond Traffic” report, including increased congestion on our nation’s highways and the need for a strong multimodal transportation system.
DOT quickly issued guidance for the new National Highway Freight Program in order to provide States with information needed to put freight formula dollars to use to improve the efficient movement of freight nationwide.
The FASTLANE discretionary grants program will provide robust multi-year funding for freight and highway projects.
DOT developed State freight plan guidance and an interim National Multimodal Freight Network map that will be issued in late Spring.
Additionally, the comment period for DOT’s draft National Freight Strategic Plan closes on April 25. Comments will be used to issue a final strategic plan that will describe the freight transportation system, including major corridors and gateways, and assesses the physical, institutional, and financial barriers to improvement.
Building on the work carried out with F DOT is implementing FAST provisions that will further reduce uncertainty and delays.
For example, DOT has:
Published a checklist of environmental review/approval responsibilities to help project sponsors identify potential project requirements;
Coordinated with other Federal agencies to align reviews of potential historic sites;
Established an inflation adjustment to the threshold for certain Federally-funded actions categorically excluded from certain environmental reviews;
issued a memo on treatment of certain bridges ( under Section 106 and 4(f); and
issued a memo on improving habitats for pollinators.
DOT issued three grant solicitations for competitive research programs, including the University Transportation Center Program, the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program, and the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program.
In February DOT issued a solicitation of nominations for Port Performance Freight Statistics Working Group members to help develop balanced performance measures under the Port Performance Freight Statistics Program. Those nominations were due on March 24 and are under review.
National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau
The FAST provision requiring establishment of a “National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau” (the Bureau) builds on a number of actions we have already taken, including establishment of Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) in 2014 as a single point of contact and coordination for project sponsors looking to use Federal transportation expertise, apply for Federal transportation credit programs and explore ways to access private capital in public private partnerships.
DOT secured external assistance via a team staffed by consultants to support the development of a clear and comprehensive plan for standing up the Bureau.
We submitted the first 90-day interim update to Congress, which outlines the internal implementation structure and initial steps towards fulfilling the responsibilities of the Bureau.
On March 24 DOT issued the first innovative finance resource supporting the Bureau’s mission - a report entitled “Successful Practices for Public Private Partnerships”.