On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) opened applications for the first round of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation Discretionary Grant Program.

The program invests in projects that improve or replace the U.S. surface transportation system – including highways, public transportation, pedestrian facilities, ports and intercity passenger rail – making them more resilient to the worsening impacts of climate change while reducing long-term costs by minimizing demands for more expensive future maintenance and rebuilding. The program prioritizes protection against flood, erosion, wave damage and heat impacts, all of which are strengths of manufactured precast concrete.

In preparation for this, NPCA last week submitted comments to the FHWA in review of the general applicability waiver of its Buy America requirements for manufactured products.

NPCA’s position is that while materials that comprise precast concrete generally are available during strong economic times, opportunities for a waiver to use foreign materials must be kept open during high-stress environments, such as the recent COVID pandemic and ensuing supply chain shortages.

By improving resilience to natural hazards and climate change impacts, the goal of these projects is to reduce damage and disruption to the transportation system and improve the safety of the traveling public. Grant applicants at all levels of government – from local governments and Indian Tribes to state DOTs – are expected to apply for up to $848 million in discretionary grant funding, which comes on top of PROTECT funding already allotted to states.

According to a White House press release, projects funded by states using funding through the $7.3 billion PROTECT Formula Program include:

  • Design phase work in Kentucky to raise a two-mile stretch of Kentucky-459 above the floodplain, including raising the Bull Run Creek Bridge.
  • Planning in Alaska to evaluate areas to enhance the resiliency of roads, bridges, and associated infrastructure after they were damaged by Typhoon Merbok and subsequent Bering and Chukchi Sea storm events in the fall of 2022.
  • Improvements in New Hampshire to NH Route 16 that will move the road 200 feet and address frequent wash outs and unstable slopes due flooding from the Androscoggin River.
  • Resilience improvements to the I-20 Wateree River Bridge in South Carolina to replace the bridge’s shallow foundations with deep foundations.
  • Raising the elevation of Louisiana Highway 1 (LA 1) to make it more resilient to flooding during extreme weather events across the Gulf of Mexico.

Applications are open until Aug. 18.