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Maximizing Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Grants to Advance Transportation Modernization

Transportation and technology concept. ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems). Mobility as a service.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA), signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021, infuses historic amounts of funding into our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Applying for grants can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA), signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021, infuses historic amounts of funding into our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The majority of funds will be allocated towards physical infrastructure, as the most money is available for the reconstruction of bridges and roadways for materials, labor, and planning costs. But some funds are available for technology, and securing those could give you the support you need to modernize your department and projects.

Applying for grants can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you haven’t applied for grants before, or if you haven’t used grant money for IT modernization, here’s a brief guide to what you’ll need to do.

Step 1: Dream big

Grant funding gives your agency the opportunity to take a step back, research, and dream big about what’s possible. Instead of starting with specific projects, think about the kinds of goals you want to accomplish. For example, maybe you want to focus on safety — the first goal in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) draft Strategic Framework. Instead of picking a project right away, brainstorm all sorts of ways you can use technology to drive down transportation-related injuries and fatalities. Get creative — safety solutions are bigger than speed bumps and traffic circles.

For example, enterprise asset management (EAM) systems can improve safety by providing real-time, accurate data on how we assess, detect, monitor, and track deficiencies and defects related to infrastructure and inventory. Plus, cloud-based asset management tools have become a lot more refined in recent years, allowing agencies to aggregate and analyze data, discover which assets are eroding fastest, and identify where to invest limited funding. Getting grant money for an EAM could give you a new tool in your toolkit to both improve safety and improve ROI on your investments.

Safety is just one example of where you could start. Modernization, resiliency, sustainability, emission goals — all of these are key priorities for the IIJA, and all can be directly supported by technology like cloud computing. Plus, Amazon Web Services (AWS) can support your department through data storage, enterprise resource planning (ERP), geospatial information systems (GIS) and mapping, computer vision, call centers, machine learning/analytics, and more.

Step 2: Pick a grant

Once you’ve identified a goal you care about and a project you think can help you achieve it, research available grants so you can align the right program to your project.

The most technology-friendly DOT grant is the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program (ATCMTD) — renamed in the IIJA to the Advanced Transportation Technologies and Innovative Mobility Deployment Program (ATTIMD). This program will fund transportation technologies to improve safety, mobility, efficiency, system performance, intermodal connectivity, and infrastructure return on investment. Additional information on ATTIMD is available on page 31 of the IIJA guidebook.

Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) also funds projects with substantial technology components, with a focus on multimodal projects, projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and projects that create workforce development opportunities.

If you have a highway project, take a look at the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA), which opened as part of the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant (MPDG) Program. INFRA projects should improve safety, generate economic benefits, reduce congestion, enhance resiliency, or reduce supply chain bottlenecks. The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. EST on May 23, 2022. Applicants may find the notice of funding opportunity here.

Before you choose a grant program to pursue, make sure you and your project fit what the grant is looking to fund. With so many new programs from DOT, it’s important to pay attention to the details of who is and isn’t eligible and the priorities and expenses they will fund. There’s nothing worse than applying for a grant you’re not eligible for, or putting hours into an application just to have it denied because it doesn’t align to the priorities or eligible expenses.

If you’ve missed the deadline to submit for these or other grants, don’t worry. It’s never too early to start working on the next grant application.

Step 3: Be specific

Once you’ve picked the right grant for you, it’s time to get specific. Gather your team and draft an overview of your project, making the case for why your need is critical. Use data. Provide specific details on current shortfalls or safety issues that may arise if you don’t complete the project. The details may make the difference between receiving an award or being denied — the DOT doesn’t want to fund technology or projects that don’t have a detailed execution plan.

Most grant programs will not outline a comprehensive list of capital expenditures and software that are eligible, so it will be your department’s job to make your case. Use a project and budget narrative to articulate how technology is integral to your project, makes you innovative, saves you time and money, and supports the grant’s purpose, goals and priorities.

Pay attention to the details of what is required for the proposal narrative, partnerships that need to be in place, and data that makes a case for your need. No matter the grant you are seeking, you’ll have better chances of getting funded if you provide data-driven details, are specific about your need, and connect it to solving a problem in your community.

Step 4: Innovate with the right partner

AWS and their extensive partner community can be leveraged during the grant application planning process and may be able to provide letters of support and discuss matching ideas. Engage your AWS representative now to help make your application innovative and get the most of federal funding.

About the Authors

Stephanie L. Jones is a leading expert in grants, getting her start with the Indiana State Police, two decades ago. As the Vertical Grants Leader for AWS, she enjoys diving deep into the various SLG grant programs that help customers become efficient, innovative, and serve more constituents. She resides in Indiana with her husband Mike.

Randy Iwasaki leads state and local transportation at Amazon Web Services (AWS). Prior to joining AWS, Randy served for 10 years as executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority where he founded GoMentum Station, the largest secure automated vehicle test facility in the nation. Prior to that, he was a 27-year employee of the California Department of Transportation, serving as director from 2009 to 2010.