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June 30 -- The Department of Transportation (DOT) invites public comments on our intention to request Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for an information collection necessary for administration of Multimodal Project Discretionary Grants (MPDG). This includes three funding opportunities: the “National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants program (Mega),” the “Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Projects grants program (INFRA)”, and the “Rural Surface Transportation Grant program (Rural)”. The MPDG provides Federal financial assistance for surface transportation infrastructure projects—including highway and bridge, intercity passenger rail, railway-highway grade and separation, wildlife crossing, public transportation, marine highway, and freight and multimodal projects, or groups of such projects, of national or regional significance, as well as to projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas. Written comments should be submitted by August 29, 2023.

The Office of the Secretary (“OST”) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) provides financial assistance for surface transportation infrastructure projects—including to highway and bridge, intercity passenger rail, railway-highway grade and separation, wildlife crossing, public transportation, marine highway, and freight and multimodal projects, or groups of such projects, of national or regional significance, as well as to projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Pub. L. 117–58, November 15, 2021) (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or BIL) provided funds to the Department across three programs to invest in projects of national or regional significance—the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants program, found under 49 U.S.C. 6701 (“Mega”), the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Projects grants program, found at 23 U.S.C. 117 (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America or “INFRA”), and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant program, found at 23 U.S.C. 173 (“Rural”). To help streamline the process for applicants, the Department has combined the applications for the Mega, INFRA, and Rural programs into the MPDG common application.

The Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Projects grants program (“INFRA”) (23 U.S.C. 117) was established in the Fixing American's Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (“FAST ACT”), Public Law 114–94 sec. 1105, and continued in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Public Law 117–58 (2021). OST is referring to these grants as “FASTLANE” or “INFRA” Discretionary Grants, depending on the year of award.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law established two new programs along with the reauthorization of INFRA. The Mega Program, known statutorily as the National Infrastructure Project Assistance program (49 U.S.C. 6701), will support large, complex projects that are difficult to fund by other means and likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility, or safety benefits. The Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (23 U.S.C. 173) will support projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth and improve quality of life.

The DOT combined these three programs into single Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to provide a more efficient application process for project sponsors. While they remain separate programs for the purposes of award, the programs share many common characteristics. Because of these shared characteristics, it is possible for many projects to be eligible and considered for multiple programs using a single application.

This notice seeks comments on the proposed information collection, which will collect information necessary to support the ongoing oversight and administration of previous awards, the evaluation and selection of new applications, the funding agreement negotiation stage for new awards, and the evaluation of the programs.

The reporting requirements for the program is as follows:

To be considered to receive a MPDG grant, a project sponsor must submit an application to DOT containing a project narrative, as detailed in the NOFO. The project narrative should include the information necessary for the Department to determine that the project satisfies eligibility requirements as warranted by law.

After the award announcement the Department will send out a voluntary survey to all applicants and webinar participants to help evaluate the application process.

Following the announcement of a funding award, the recipient and DOT will negotiate and sign a funding agreement. In the agreement, the recipient must describe the project that DOT agreed to fund, which is the project that was described in the MPDG application or a reduced-scope version of that project. The agreement also includes project schedule milestones, a budget, and project-related climate change and equity planning and policies.

During the project monitoring stage, grantees will submit reports on the financial condition of the project and the project's progress. Grantees will submit progress and monitoring reports to the Government on a quarterly basis until completion of the project. The progress reports will include an SF–425, Federal Financial Report, and other information determined by the administering DOT Operating Administration. This information will be used to monitor grantees' use of Federal funds, ensuring accountability and financial transparency in the MPDG programs.

MPDG Program: https://www.transportation.gov/grants/mpdg-program
Draft data collection instruments and technical documentation requested from DOT by AEAStat.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-13939

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