The BIL is earmarking $50 billion for resilience-related provisions that will help communities overcome the effects of climate change.
The Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant program, for example, has added eligibility for projects that increase the resiliency of the transportation system and improve emergency response. The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) program creates new opportunities for agencies to plan for and build more resilient infrastructure. And the new Healthy Streets Program has authorized $500 million for projects that reduce stormwater runoff, flood risks and heat impacts on infrastructure and road users.
“This creates an opportunity to more completely address concerns like rainfall flooding, storm surge or stormwater runoff, as well as other natural impacts to infrastructure that road users must face,” said Michael Flood, U.S. resilience practice leader at WSP. “There is a clear focus on trying to provide better outcomes for weather events, in particular.”
The law includes a $27 billion program for power grid infrastructure resiliency and reliability, which makes available a number of beneficial programs, including grid infrastructure reliability competitive grants, which will fund projects that make grids more resilient and reliable in the face of extreme weather or natural disasters; energy improvement in rural or remote areas; and rural and municipal cybersecurity grants for communities that lack the resources to maintain their cybersecurity systems and better address cybersecurity threats.
The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity / Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (RAISE/BUILD) local and regional project assistance program will provide $7.5 billion in competitive grants to fund projects that address critical concerns for transportation systems, like replacing culverts or preventing stormwater runoff, which often have a detrimental impact on infrastructure.
“The focus is on creating more resilient infrastructure and bring to an end the constant stream of negative environmental impacts we have seen over the past several decades,” Flood said. “It is now imperative to think proactively about ways to improve our resilience with our infrastructure investments and find ways to create critical lifelines for communities and economies across the country.”
Reducing potential damage to vital evacuation routes have been given a high priority in the law, making sure that critical elements that will enable fast and safe transportation during natural emergencies.
“The coastal infrastructure program is looking at ways to not only address the significant impacts of weather and climate, but also to address things like recurring maintenance,” Flood said. “Investments can be made to reduce the long-term maintenance cost by making targeted investments.
He noted that construction funding for projects typically falls to a funding share of 80 percent federal, with the remaining 20 percent covered by state and regional agencies.
“However, if an agency has a resilience improvement plan, the state and regional share drops to 13 percent,” Flood said. “Additionally, if that plan is combined with a rural infrastructure program and a long-range transportation plan, then that percentage actually drops even further down to 10 percent. So, obviously, there are a lot of very strong financial incentives for people explore these options.”
The law also includes a $6.5 billion Carbon Reduction Program, which explores ways to reduce transportation carbon emissions through infrastructure projects, such as:
- traffic monitoring, management, and control facilities or programs;
- public transportation;
- ·on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists;
- advanced transportation and congestion management technologies;
- deployment of infrastructure-based intelligent transportation systems (ITS);
- capital improvements and the installation of vehicle to infrastructure communications equipment;
- replacing street lighting and traffic control devices with energy-efficient alternatives; and
- development of a carbon reduction strategy.
“Having a carbon reduction strategy in place when the first phase of this requirement is due in 2023 will be important for agencies that are pursuing funding through this particular program,” Flood said.