USDOT Issues $3.3B in ‘Reconnecting Communities’ Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded more than $3.3 billion via its Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhood Access and Equity (RCN) discretionary grant program to 132 infrastructure projects in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

[Above photo by USDOT]

The agency noted that the RCN program is a combination of the Reconnecting Communities Pilot from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Neighborhood Access and Equity discretionary grant program created by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Grants from both programs seek to “reconnect” communities cut off in the past by transportation infrastructure, leaving such neighborhoods in many cases bereft of direct access to schools, jobs, medical offices, and places of worship.

“While the purpose of transportation is to connect, in too many communities, past infrastructure decisions have served instead to divide,” said USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement. “Now [we are] acting to fix that.”

A slew of projects overseen by state departments of transportation were included in this round of RCP grants, USDOT noted:

  • The Colorado Department of Transportation: $2 million for the “Removing the Highway Barrier: Equitably Restoring Colfax and Federal Mobility and Land Use” project;
  • The Connecticut Department of Transportation: $2 million for its Greater Hartford Mobility Study;
  • The District of Columbia Department of Transportation: $2 million for its DC 295/I-295 Corridor Feasibility Study for the Washington, D.C., area;
  • The Delaware Department of Transportation: $2 million for the “Bridging I-95 Concept Study” that involves communities in and around Wilmington, DE;
  • The Hawaii Department of Transportation: More than $19.1 million for the “Connecting Pearl Highlands to Opportunity” project conducted jointly with the County of Honolulu, City of Honolulu, and the Honolulu Department of Transportation;
  • The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development: $2 million for its “Reconnecting Claiborne” study;
  • The Massachusetts Department of Transportation: More than $335.3 million for the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project;
  • The Maryland Department of Transportation: More than $3.3 million for the “Enhancing Easton” neighborhood access project along the US Route 50 highway;
  • The Maine Department of Transportation: $22.4 million for the “Reconnecting our Villages – Historic Libbytown” project;
  • The Minnesota Department of Transportation: $3.6 million for the “Highway 55 Community Partnership/A Roadway for All” project;
  • The Mississippi Department of Transportation: $9.6 million for the Bienville Boulevard/Scott Pruitt Memorial Highway Multi-Use Path project;
  • The Montana Department of Transportation: $24 million for “Reconnecting East Missoula” project coordinated with Missoula County, the City of Missoula, and the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization;
  • The New York State Department of Transportation: More than $180 million for the I-81 Connecting Syracuse project;
  • The Oregon Department of Transportation: $450 million for the I-5 Rose Quarter improvement project;
  • The South Carolina Department of Transportation: More than $10 million for the Dave Lyle Boulevard Pedestrian Bridge project;
  • The Utah Department of Transportation: More than $87 million to fund local street crossings of Interstate 15 in St. George at 400 East and 900 South;
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation: $2 million for the “Reimagining the National Avenue Interchange” project. 

FHWA Starts Low Carbon Transportation Materials Program

The Federal Highway Administration has officially launched its Low Carbon Transportation Materials Program, which aims to lower air pollution – specifically greenhouse gas or GHG emissions – via “reimbursement and incentive funding” for low carbon construction materials and products used in transportation infrastructure projects.

[Above photo by WVDOT]

Established by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the FHWA’s low carbon program will make $2 billion available to state departments of transportation, Native American tribes, Metropolitan Planning Organizations or MPOs, and transportation other agencies to buy materials that create less pollution – including steel, concrete, and asphalt.

In a statement, the FHWA explained that it will use a “hybrid approach” to implement the program:

  • First, FHWA is making $1.2 billion available to states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico through a Request for Applications or RFA to fund activities and projects that reduce pollution, including carbon emissions, through the use of low-embodied carbon materials and products. The agency said this approach allows it to quickly provide reimbursement or incentive funds to states to begin eligible activities and incorporate low-embodied carbon materials on construction projects now.
  • Second, later in 2024, FHWA said it will make $800 million available for “non-state” applicants, including cities, Native American tribes, MPOs, and other transportation agencies through a notice of funding opportunity or NOFO. That NOFO will encourage applicants to partner with states where appropriate and will include offers of technical assistance for applicants, FHWA noted.

In addition to funding the use of cleaner construction materials that reduce pollution and carbon emissions for transportation projects, FHWA said its new low carbon program will provide resources for agencies to implement processes and coordinate with industry to quantify the emissions of construction materials.

That information will allow substantially lower carbon materials to be identified by comparing emissions to established thresholds, the agency pointed out, with funding also allowed for the development of specifications for low-embodied carbon materials that ensure adequate engineering performance for appropriate use on federal-aid projects.

Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, explained his agency’s perspective regarding the “climate benefits” from expanded use of low carbon materials during a panel discussion in January at the Transportation Research Board’s 2024 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Our aim is to make infrastructure materials like pavement more effective, resilient, durable, and longer lasting than ever before,” Buttigieg explained at that session. “It’s about making the right kind of investments not just to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure but to redefine how it is built.”

He added that while only 60 years separated the first airborne flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., and America putting a man on the moon, the transportation industry still relies on infrastructure materials in use during the Roman Empire.

“Our role, then, at USDOT, is to make sure we have a good understanding of the role of materials we use in transportation and how they are encoded into the decisions we make,” the secretary said. “There is a very low level of attention paid to materials research, but an even marginal change in quality could be massive if multiplied out among all the projects we work on.”

Environmental News Highlights – March 20, 2024


National Zero-Emission Freight Corridor Plan Unveiled -AASHTO Journal

45 states, large metro areas submit climate action plans under Inflation Reduction Act -EPA (media release)


Solar Eclipse Preparations -The Stream by AASHTO

Ohio governor signs executive order ahead of total solar eclipse -WLWT-TV

Wyoming Officials Share Lessons Learned From 2017 Eclipse Ahead Of Texas April Eclipse -WFAA-TV


New Jersey’s transit stations can help spur more affordable housing -WNET-TV’s NJ Spotlight News (video)

San Diego gets first electric tug boat in US -KUSI/KSWB-TV

Coastal US Cities Top Ranking of Climate-Friendly Transportation –CityLab

National League of Cities Launches New Mapping Resource to Support Transit Planning in Municipalities -National League of Cities (media release)



Maryland DOT announces $55 million in federal funding to reduce transportation emissions -WBFF-TV

The Remarkable Potential of Sustainable Aviation Fuel for Carbon Emission Reduction -Greek Reporter

The Role of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses in a Zero Emission Future -American Public Transportation Association (webinar)


Caltrans Unveils New Transportation Equity Index Tool -AASHTO Journal

Aging advocates aim to expand public transit across New Hampshire -New Hampshire Bulletin

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Environmental Justice and Confronting the Climate Crisis -University of Michigan (livestream)


Wetland and Beaver Dam Water Quality Workshop to be held in Oskaloosa, OK -Oskaloosa Herald


Washington State DOT’s Paint Maps: The Origin Story -WSDOT Blog

Drive with Aloha’ murals educate about drunk driving -Spectrum News

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How green is your next vacation? Here’s how to tell –USA Today (opinion)


Hawaii DOT Launches Statewide Aviation Noise Study -Island News

To Incentivize E-Bikes, First Map Your Destination -Government Technology

New York City Just Had Its Safest-Ever Year For Pedestrians. What Went Right? –CityLab

$50 Million to Enhance Active Transportation Across British Columbia –Momentum

DC transit officials will give city residents money toward a new electric bike -Washington Times

Coon Rapids, MN awarded state grant for active transportation plan -ABC Newspapers


Advanced Air Mobility and Community Outreach: A Primer for Successful Stakeholder Engagement –ACRP

Advancing Gender Equity in the DOT Workforce –NCHRP

Respectful Response to People Experiencing Homelessness in Transit -TRB (webinar)

Artificial Intelligence Lets Bicycles ‘See’ -Informationsdienst Wissenschaft


Ensuring Safe Accommodations for Air Travelers With Disabilities Using Wheelchairs -Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)

Notice of Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting -Surface Transportation Board (Notice)

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Atlantic Shores North Project on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey -Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice)

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