Winning Strategies for Securing Bridge Funding
May 10, 2024

More than a third of U.S. bridges are in need of repair with 42,400 bridges rated in poor condition.There is federal funding available for local governments to support planning and construction projects for bridges in poor condition or at risk of falling into poor condition. See below for best practices to access federal dollars to support bridge projects.

Planning for the Bridge Application Process

Planning for the Bridge Application Process

Strategy #1: Take advantage of the Bridge Investment Program’s long runway to plan and prepare

The Bridge Investment Program (BIP) took the unusual step of releasing one Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for several fiscal years, FY23-26, giving applicants an extended window to plan, design, and submit applications. BIP reviewers will prioritize applications for bridges that:

    • Are in poor condition, or are in fair condition and at risk of falling into poor condition within the next 3 years;
    • Do not meet current design standards or cannot meet current load and traffic needs;
    • Threaten future transportation network efficiency, mobility, or accessibility; or
    • Require improved protection for the bridge’s long-term resiliency.

Because this NOFO spans 4 fiscal years, there are several deadlines for the BIP. These deadlines are rolling, meaning applications will be reviewed when they are received rather than only after the deadline. Upcoming deadlines include:

Planning Grants  Bridge Projects  Large Bridge Projects 
  • October 1, 2024, for FY 2025 funds
  • October 1, 2025, for FY 2026 funds
  • November 1, 2024, for FY 2025 funds
  • November 1, 2025, for FY 2026 funds
  • August 1, 2024, for FY 2025 funds.
  • August 1, 2025, for FY 2026 funds.

A BIP application requires a lot of preparation, including development of a benefit-cost analysis, a readiness assessment, evidence of environmental permits and other approvals, a detailed project schedule, etc. Cities in the earlier stages of preparing all of this information have through the summer/fall of 2025 to prepare an application and can also consider applying for a planning grant to assist with some of their planning activities in the meantime.

Strategy #2: Expand your impact through regional partnerships and “bridge bundling”

Bridges span communities (literally) and are often interjurisdictional, so working with neighboring communities, the state, or through a metropolitan planning organization or transportation authority is often a necessity. 

One unique feature of BIP is that they encourage “bridge bundling” (Q20), which means incorporating multiple bridges into a single “project,” often in order to meet the BIP project threshold requirements. This is another way that working with regional partners can strengthen an application or provide opportunities for smaller projects to access funding for which they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible.

During the Bridge Application Process

During the Bridge Application Process

Strategy #3: Apply for a planning grant to prepare for a future BIP application

Even with the long runway, bridges can be very large and complex projects, so BIP also has funding available for planning grants that can be used for activities like feasibility analyses and revenue forecasting. Note that in contrast to many other planning grants, environmental review, preliminary engineering, design work, and other pre-construction activities are NOT eligible planning grant activities under BIP.

The Department of Transportation (DOT)  has created a new planning grant template that can be found under “Application Templates.” Planning grant applications are expected to describe how the proposed bridge project qualifies for a BIP grant (planning grants must be for BIP-eligible projects) and provide a detailed project schedule and budget for both the planning and construction phases.

Strategy #4: Demonstrate how your project uses data-driven decision-making for proactive bridge management

Accurate and timely data ensure that bridges are safe and helps inform preventive bridge management activities. The National Bridge Inventory collects a significant amount of information about the state of repair for bridges across the country that can form the basis of a BIP application. To be eligible for BIP, a bridge must be included in the National Bridge Inventory. A strong application may also include data about traffic patterns and load, environmental risks and resiliency needs (e.g. for climate change impacts or earthquakes), mobility impacts, maintenance costs, safety data and risks, etc. as well as qualitative data from community and stakeholder engagement.

Applicants will also need to provide a detailed data-based analysis of their project’s costs and benefits. To assist with this process, DOT has provided a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) template as well as agency-wide guidance on BCAs.

Strategy #5: Combine BIP with other bridge funding

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law contains several competitive grant programs in addition to the BIP that can be used for bridges. Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE), Infra for multimodal freight and highway projects; MEGA for large, complex projects of national significance; and Rural Surface Transportation grants are some of the larger programs in this category. The Bridge Formula Program also provides funding for bridges via state transportation agencies. The DOT Discretionary Grants Dashboard allows you to search for bridges under the “transportation type” dropdown menu and provides information about additional programs that can have a bridge component. Generally, funding from these grant programs can be combined to finance a bridge project, but cannot be used to meet the non-federal match requirement.

Other Resources