WSP USA’s Federal Grant Success Leads to Design Services Opportunity

The Indiana Department of Transportation secured federal funding for a critical highway improvement project using grant application services provided by WSP USA. Now the firm has secured a contract for its design.

When the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) sought a highly competitive federal BUILD grant for improvements to a section of Interstate 65 (I-65) near Columbus, Indiana, they wanted to leave nothing to chance in its application for the funding.

Before submitting a request to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for its Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) Discretionary Grants Program, INDOT partnered with WSP USA to make sure no stone was left unturned in the process.

“WSP planning strategy and grants group knows the criteria that the USDOT is looking for in its BUILD grant applications,” said Sierra Laventure-Volz, planning strategy and grants consultant at WSP. “They are reviewing hundreds of applications for just a few grants, so it’s critical to write a proposal that distinguishes itself from the competition. We find those unique elements that set our client’s projects apart.”

She said that over the 10-year life of the program, USDOT has funded about six percent of all applications it has received; therefore every piece of information – and the way it is presented – can mean the difference between success and failure.

“By comparison, our hit rate over the last five years is better than 20 percent,” Laventure-Volz said. “Our services are capable of dramatically improving a project’s chances of receiving substantial funding.”

By improving their odds, the South Central Indiana Expansion Project was put in a better position for a successful application … and the result was a $20 million grant that will significantly offset the $44 million total project cost.

“This grant will allow INDOT to accelerate construction of what was targeted as a priority project," said Duane McKinney, WSP senior project manager. “They did not have the entirety of state funds to implement it. It allows them to get to work earlier and deliver the benefits faster than would have otherwise been possible without the grant.”

Just the Beginning

Stretching across four miles of a four-lane highway south of Indianapolis, the roadway improvement will occur between the interchanges of State Route 46 to the north and State Route 58 to the south. The goal is to increase the capacity of the road to improve traffic flow along an interstate that experiences considerable congestion during peak hours.

To achieve this objective will involve the reconstruction of the existing lanes while adding an additional travel lane and shoulder to both the north and south bound lanes, creating a six-lane highway. It will also include the replacement of two bridges that cross I-65, and requires lanes remain open for traffic throughout construction.

But INDOT’s relationship with WSP on this I-65 project didn’t end with the grant proposal. WSP was selected as the lead designer to take the project from concept to final plans and construction procurement.

“The trust built between INDOT and WSP through the grant proposal led to a continuation of a successful collaboration for the design portion of the I-65 project,” McKinney said.

“Once the BUILD grant was secured, INDOT accelerated the schedule and gave this project a high priority,” he added. “It is currently in the design stage, and construction is expected to begin in the fall. Design is about 60 percent complete, and everything is progressing on time and on budget.”

This segment of I-65 is part of an overall INDOT improvement program to expand the interstate between Chicago and Louisville.



This stretch of Interstate 95 south of Indianapolis will be improved soon than originally expected, thanks to a $20 million BUILD grant.

Continuing Success

Following the completion of the I-65 project grant request, INDOT requested help from WSP to write six additional grant proposals for other transportation projects. One of those proposals resulted in a successful $16 million 2019 BUILD grant for improvements to another segment of I-65, known as the I-65 Access and Mobility Project.

This project involves the construction or modification of four interchanges along I-65 within Boone County, located Northeast of Indianapolis, in an effort to minimize heavy traffic congestion in a region that has been experiencing rapid growth.

In addition, the firm’s success has led to other work beyond BUILD grant-related projects, including an on-call design contract for transportation projects in Seymour, Indiana.

“We have been trying to pursue projects in the Seymour district, this project opened the door for WSP to demonstrate and prove that we can successfully accelerate project timelines, we now have a presence in this market,” McKinney said. “This is a very exciting opportunity for WSP.”

Building a Better Proposal

With the successful BUILD grant programs, and other programs such as INFRA having yearly calls for applications, INDOT released an on-call grant writing request for proposal (RFP) to secure a consultant to develop their grant applications. WSP’s grant team was selected for a two-year on-call contract with INDOT, renewable for an additional two years.

“This secures WSP’s place as INDOT’s preferred grant writing consultant for the foreseeable future,” McKinney said.

The next round of USDOT’s BUILD grant program is expected to begin in mid-February. Forward-thinking agencies should be considering their options now by assessing which potential projects may present the most compelling application. The earlier an agency engages a consultant like WSP in the process can help them determine if they have a viable project, and provide the time needed to build a proposal that’s going to catch the eye of the application judges.

“We like to work with clients well-before USDOT publishes its notice of funding opportunity (NOFO),” Laventure-Volz said. “That provides us with more time to strategically craft a compelling project scope and story – one that clearly distinguishes itself from the competition.”

She added that in addition to the BUILD program, WSP’s planning strategy and grants team has supported successful application for Federal Highway Administration’s INFRA, Federal Railroad Administration’s CRISI, and Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant and Discretionary Bus program funds. Since 2009, WSP has helped secure almost $28 billion in federal transportation grants and loans for over 140 projects.

One of the keys to WSP’s successful grant-writing track record is the breadth and depth of its staff and resources across the U.S., and their familiarity with many different transportation grants.

“Whether it’s in Indiana, or any other state, WSP’s ability to understand the objectives of the project we are representing, as well as our understanding of the grant provider’s expectation, positions us to accurately present the project so that it clearly meets and exceeds all expectations,” Laventure-Volz said. “It is very satisfying for us to be able to provide this service and help transportation agencies complete these projects sooner — and improve mobility and access to economic opportunities.”

“It means a lot to me personally to be able to support INDOT and help them find additional funding for these projects,” McKinney said. “When you can help your local municipality secure funding for roads and facilities you use every day, it is very satisfying. It also creates a sense of pride to build the level of relationship where WSP is viewed as the go-to firm achieving a higher echelon of service for the client.”

[To subscribe to Insights, contact the editorial staff at [email protected].]

Related Publications