As the federal and state governments face continued budget deficits and tight revenues, grant and low-interest loan programs with huge funding behind them could be a thing of the past.
But funding is out there. U.S. EPA’s recently released “Infrastructure Financing Options for Transit-Oriented Development” report identifies three types for which transit-oriented design (TOD) infrastructure might qualify.
Federal Transportation Grants
Typically accessed through metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and/or state DOTs:
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program. Jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA), funding can be used for a wide range of capital investments that reduce emissions. Projects must be a part of the MPO’s current Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to be eligible. Contact your MPO for information about the process for placing projects on the TIP and with suggestions for CMAQ projects.
FHWA’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Funds awarded in a competitive process to local governments, regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, natural resource or public land agencies, and tribal governments. Federal funds pay up to 80% of a project; the rest is the sponsor’s responsibility. State DOTs are responsible for developing and administering their own TAP, so the application process varies by state. Usually, local governments and nonprofits partner to apply to the state.
FTA’s Urbanized Area Formula Funding Program. For populations of 200,000 or more, funds can be used for capital projects, planning, operating assistance, and job access and reverse-commute projects. For areas with fewer than 200,000 people, public transportation operating costs are eligible. Projects must be a part of MPO’s TIP. To access Urbanized Area Program funds, local governments typically work with their MPO to place projects on their region’s TIP.
Federal Community Grants
Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD Community Development Block Grants support affordable housing and community services, job creation, and business retention in vulnerable neighborhoods. There are annual grants to local government agencies and states through a variety of funding programs that might not be directly applicable to TOD infrastructure but can make TOD infrastructure possible by funding a portion of a larger TOD project.
Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The EDA provides grants to economically distressed communities to generate new employment, help retain existing jobs, and stimulate industrial and commercial growth. TOD is recognized as an economic development tool by the EDA, which funds up to 80% of total project cost.
Foundation grants. Foundations are nongovernmental organizations that make grants with a charitable purpose, and studies show they’re interested in supporting TOD. February 2013 Public Works (“21st century financing”) showed how the Rockefeller Foundation provided significant seed money to help the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange increase private financing to address significant infrastructure backlogs in California, Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia. Supporting sustainable infrastructure solutions is a key objective.
Program-related investments. Foundations make program-related investments to support their mission and leverage their donations. These investments allow the recipient to borrow capital at lower rates than might otherwise be available.
To read EPA’s recently released “Infrastructure Financing Options for Transit-Oriented Development,” visit here.