Bridges for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure Webinar Recording and Summary
May 20, 2024

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Webinar Summary

The Local Infrastructure Hub hosted a session on May 14, 2024, to discuss the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) Bridge Investment Program (BIP). The BIP is a federal grant program designed to support planning and construction projects for bridges needing repair. Alongside the BIP, other programs like the Bridge Formula Program (BFP), the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program, and the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Programy can also be used to help develop and improve bridge infrastructure. This session featured Shailen Bhatt, Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; Hari Kalla, Associate Administrator for Infrastructure of the Federal Highway Administration; Mayor Todd Gloria of San Diego, CA; Mayor Michael Passero of New London, CT; and Ryan Sen, Civil Engineer at Philadelphia Streets Department, Bridge Division, to discuss best practices for submitting a winning Bridge Investment Program application and accessing funding for bridge project development and planning.

Key Insights Shared

Take advantage of BIL opportunities because infrastructure investment is important

Administrator Bhatt highlighted that throughout his career in infrastructure, the story has been – if only we had the money. Now, thanks to the BIL, cities have the opportunity to make historic infrastructure investments in their communities. Administrator Bhatt urged cities to “get in the game” and take advantage of these opportunities to show congress that infrastructure investment is a priority. 

There are multiple ways to fund your community’s bridge projects

Associate Administrator Kalla emphasized that there are multiple ways for local governments to access funding for bridge projects under the BIL. In addition to the Bridge Investment Program (discretionary), there is also the the Bridge Formula Program (BFP), the PROTECT program, the RAISE program, National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Megaprojects), and Nationally Significant Freight & Highway Projects (INFRA). Understanding your bridge project needs and the types of funding available for bridge projects can help your community maximize funding potential. 

Applications should lay out the importance of bridge improvements in humanistic terms

Administrator Bhatt also highlighted the importance of storytelling in bridge funding applications, focusing on how the storyline of resilience and equity of a project can complement an application and make it more competitive.

As an example of this, Mayor Gloria discussed how the City of San Diego was awarded $24 million from the Bridge Investment Program to rehabilitate the Palm Avenue Bridge. The safety and integrity of this bridge is paramount, but Mayor Gloria highlighted the importance of telling the human stories in the application process. For example, not only will upgrades increase the resilience of the Palm Avenue Bridge in the face of earthquakes, but a historically underserved neighborhood will also see a massive investment in their community. The funds will be used to create safe multimodal transport in the form of pedestrian walkways and bike paths while ensuring that the surrounding residents can access their families, work, and school without costly delays.

Collaborate regionally and with your state where possible to make sure your community’s needs are met

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) was awarded $158.2 million through the Bridge Investment Program to rehabilitate the Gold Star Memorial Bridge that spans between New London and Groton. Although the application was led by CTDOT, the process required collaboration between the State, Groton, New London, and the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments. Mayor Passero discussed New London’s role in engaging the community to ensure equity is top of mind when completing the application. Through these efforts, the Gold Star Memorial Bridge improvements include pedestrian and bike safety.

Take advantage of technical assistance opportunities

Many of the competitive grant programs at DOT are oversubscribed and sometimes cities will need to apply more than once before they get a grant. Mayor Gloria recommended taking advantage of DOT’s offer to review applications that were unsuccessful to inform your next attempt. In addition to reviewing applications that didn’t receive grants, USDOT and other agencies offer many types of technical assistance, ranging from application help to project implementation advising. 

Planning grants are incredibly important

Administrator Bhatt and Associate Administrator Kalla discussed the importance of planning grants for bridge projects. They highlighted that planning applications should focus on feasibility analysis or revenue forecasting to help drive storytelling of how a project might fit into your community’s network; how it could be part of an asset management plan with your state; and the resiliency and equity of the project.

For example, Ryan Sen (Civil Engineer for Philadelphia) discussed how the city  was awarded a $1.56 Million Bridge Planning Grant to develop a strategy to repair and rehabilitate 18 bridges over electrified rails. Ryan Sen highlighted the importance of planning grants by discussing how the grant will help the city plan for future needs and better apply for infrastructure funding in the future.

Local Infrastructure Hub Bootcamp Materials

The Local Infrastructure Hub is here to support cities in accessing BIL funding and communicating the success of BIL-funded projects through a mix of webinars, practical tools, and templates. Our webinars and Grant Application Bootcamps can guide you through different application processes and actionable steps to submit a strong application.

Register for our Local Infrastructure Hub Bootcamps now to receive technical assistance for city staff on relevant tools and templates that can be applied to grant applications; learn how to build community engagement plans and leverage community assets; understand how to effectively incorporate data into the grant application process; and how to construct a strong budget and grant narrative. 

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