Aug 5 -- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) enacted as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) created several new programs at the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that allow local governments, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, and other political subdivisions of state or local governments to apply directly for DOT discretionary grant funding. In response to President Biden's Executive Orders, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” and “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” DOT has included criteria in its notices of funding opportunity to prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities for many of these new programs.
Through this Request for Information (RFI) for the newly created Thriving Communities Initiative, DOT is looking to gain information on the technical assistance, planning, and capacity building needs faced by disadvantaged communities that are seeking to advance local transportation projects within the existing Federal, state, and regional transportation planning and project delivery methods including to access innovative finance programs offered through DOT. Comments are requested by August 26, 2022.
For this notice, DOT defines technical assistance to include programs, processes, and resources that provide targeted support, knowledge, or expertise to a community, region, organization, or other beneficiary to help access and successfully deploy funding and build local capacity to develop, design, and deliver transportation plans and projects. DOT is interested in learning more about best practices in technical assistance delivery approaches from non-Federal providers and Federal agencies which disadvantaged communities feel have been successful in meeting their needs. DOT is also interested in the technical assistance challenges disadvantaged communities face or anticipate facing when seeking to access DOT-led technical assistance and capacity building opportunities.
The information gained through this RFI will assist DOT to implement the Thriving Communities Initiative and will inform technical assistance programs being coordinated through the Build America Bureau (Bureau) that advance capacity building for disadvantaged communities, including rural and tribal governments. DOT is assessing its current suite of technical assistance programs and seeks to identify emerging technical assistance needs and best practices in the delivery approaches offered by other Federal agencies and by non-Federal technical assistance and capacity building providers.
A Department goal in creating new technical assistance programs is to structure capacity building approaches that facilitate cross-sector coordination, build sustained capacity in local communities both within government and by other implementation partners, and foster multi-stakeholder engagement both in their delivery and outcomes. The RFI responses will inform work by the Bureau to develop and coordinate technical assistance programs that deliver improved results to communities. This includes enabling communities to accelerate project delivery, utilize innovative finance tools, and advance transportation projects that benefit disadvantaged communities, support the overall Thriving Communities Initiative, align with DOT's strategic priorities, and help to implement the Equity Action Plan.
Through this RFI, DOT requests information on the technical assistance, planning, and capacity building needs faced by disadvantaged communities seeking to advance transportation projects within existing Federal, state, and regional transportation planning and project delivery methods to inform the development of technical assistance and capacity building funded through the Thriving Communities Program (TCP), the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, and the Bureau. The Department is also interested in the technical assistance challenges disadvantaged communities face or anticipate facing when seeking to access innovative financing tools and Federal credit assistance programs, such as those provided through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) (https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica/financing/tifia
) or the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) (https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica/financing/rrif
DOT is keenly interested in ways to leverage and synergize these technical assistance programs to provide a coordinated and seamless process for their delivery and for communities to access these resources. Each of these programs, including TCP, has a place-based focus and is designed to work across a range of DOT grant programs, transportation modes, and in support of urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities. . . .
The IIJA provides communities with an unprecedented opportunity to apply directly for Federal funding. Yet accessing these resources requires local communities to have considerable technical knowledge not only of the funding programs, but also of the larger transportation planning context including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other Federal requirements, and the means to successfully secure matching funds, leverage other funding and finance resources and to meet the reporting and oversight obligations of Federal grant funding. For many disadvantaged and underserved communities, these requirements create substantial barriers.
The Department seeks to gather information on technical assistance, planning, and capacity building needs and challenges and identify potential models and best practices to further improve programs being coordinated by the Bureau through the Thriving Communities Initiative. Through these coordinated efforts, DOT seeks to foster local innovation, advance DOT's equity goals, and support cross-issue and cross-sector collaboration.
The following list of questions and topic areas are intended to guide the Department in this effort. . . .
Press release: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-seeks-input-thriving-communities-initiative-created