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BUILD Grants Announcement

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
BUILD Grants Announcement
Washington, D.C.
December 11, 2018

Thank you, Jeff [Rosen, Deputy Secretary].  The Department is honored to welcome our special guests today, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Department's appropriations subcommittees: Senator Collins, Senator Reed, Representative Diaz-Balart, Representative Price.

Mayor Brown from Youngstown, Ohio, North Carolina DOT Secretary Trogdon, Rhode Island DOT Director Alviti, and Texas DOT Executive Director Bass. Thank you all so much for being here today. Your presence affirms that infrastructure is a national concern which must be, and is being, addressed at the federal, state and local levels.  

Over the past month, it has frequently been observed that infrastructure is a subject especially ripe for bipartisan legislation in the coming year.  That is great news for our country. And it is warmly welcomed by the Administration.

Meanwhile, it is important to know that the Administration and Congress have been moving ahead with increased investments in infrastructure.  The Department of Transportation received a down payment on the President’s plan of an additional $10 billion in the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, compared to the FY 2017 enacted level.  That brought the FY2018 appropriations for the Department to about $87 billion, which is largely spent on infrastructure.   So, the Department has given -- and continues to give out -- billions in discretionary grants, on top of formula grants. 

In FY2018, Congress tripled — from $500 million to $1.5 billion — the multi-modal, merit-based discretionary grants program that is now known as “BUILD.” Today, I am formally announcing that the Department has selected 91 projects in 49 states and the District of Columbia to be awarded funds under the BUILD program for FY2018.

The BUILD program supports infrastructure improvements that advance the goals of safety, improve quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, economic competitiveness and innovation. And that is what these 91 projects will collectively achieve.  Several of the projects will also contribute to America’s energy independence and border security. 

Over $1 billion of this BUILD funding will be distributed to 60 road projects.  Historically, in this program 40 percent has gone to road projects.  In this round, 69 percent of the funds will go to road projects.  About $165 million will go to rail and about $146 million will go to projects to improve America’s ports. This is the largest amount to roads and ports in the history of this program. In addition, over $141 million will be directed to transit projects — $123 million more than in 2017 and twice the percentage of the total funds awarded to transit in 2017.

There is a lot of need for investments in infrastructure around the country. And so there is a lot of enthusiasm for the BUILD program. The number of applications for BUILD grants doubled this past year. The number of applications for projects in rural areas increased 136 percent. 60 percent of the applications were for projects in rural areas.

Prior to this Administration, only 21 percent of the funding in this infrastructure program — which dates back to 2009 — was awarded to rural areas. In the Department’s selections in FY2017 and 2018, an effort was made to re-balance the under-investment in rural communities – to address overlooked needs. And so, in this round, in which 60 percent of the applications were for rural projects, 62 projects were awarded to rural areas. As a result, more rural communities will benefit from significant improvements in access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation.

A number of these projects in rural areas will also concurrently support installation of broadband infrastructure — which is critical to economic competitiveness in the 21st century. Broadband access is something probably everyone this room takes for granted and can hardly imagine being without. But for millions of Americans in rural areas, broadband is a modern marvel still, literally, out of reach.

Since the inception of the program in 2009, a total of 34 percent of the funds have now been awarded to projects in rural areas.   In the history of the program, 66 percent has been directed to urban projects.

A number of criteria were factored into the selection process, including: project readiness, costs and benefits, geographic diversity and whether the applicant recently took action to generate non-Federal revenue for transportation investments.

The project awards announced today are one dimension of ongoing Administration efforts to increase and expedite improvements of America’s infrastructure.  Through an initiative called “One Federal Decision,” the Administration is  working to cut the red tape that is holding up project delivery. This presidential mandate requires better coordination across the government for large projects, such as allowing concurrent, rather than just sequential permitting review.  It also establishes target completion dates for federal review of large projects, and holds accountable the lead government Department or agency when deadlines are not met.  The goal is less paperwork, less red tape, and more timely improvements that will better protect and enhance Americans’ quality of life.

The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enhance existing infrastructure programs, including BUILD.  And also, hopefully, in the next year a bipartisan, comprehensive long-term initiative can be achieved to address the many infrastructure needs in communities around the country.   

Thank you. 

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Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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