Investing in Underserved and Rural Communities

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Building a Just and Equitable Future

Rebuilding Rural America


Building a Just and Equitable Future

The way we invest in transportation and infrastructure has a profound impact on equity. For too long, transportation decisions have disproportionately and negatively impacted communities of color, low-income communities, and people with disabilities. The INVEST in America Act will help build a more just and equitable future through strong requirements for investment in businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, dedicated resources to low-income communities, consideration of equity and environmental justice in funding decisions, and improved access for people with disabilities.

  • Reauthorizes and updates U.S. DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, requiring that states use at least 10% of funds under the highway, transit, innovation, and TIFIA titles of the bill via small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Establishes apprenticeship goals for the largest highway grant programs with an emphasis on employing traditionally underrepresented populations, including women and minorities, to create a more diverse construction workforce.
  • Requires the Secretary to consider whether projects serve persistent poverty communities in the Projects of National and Regional Significance program ($13 billion). 
  • Requires the Secretary to consider equity and environmental justice, and whether a project is in a persistent poverty or urban poverty community, under the Community Climate Investment Grant program ($1 billion).
  • Provides $109 billion total for transit in communities of all sizes.
  • Requires consideration of equity and environmental justice for tolling and congestion pricing projects.
  • Sets aside $50 million a year, administered through the transit rural formula grant, for rural persistent poverty areas, defined as a county with a poverty rate above 20% since 1990. Requires states to distribute these federal funds to persistent poverty counties.
  • Creates a transit demonstration grant to provide for a reduced fare for low-income riders to help close transit equity gaps. Commissions a GAO review into the benefits and implications of fare-free transit.
  • Creates a new $3 billion program to reconnect economically-disadvantaged and underserved neighborhoods that have been divided by arterial highways and other infrastructure, emphasizing projects that ensure inclusive economic development and environmental justice.
  • Creates a new program to reduce transit deserts, improving access to jobs and essential destinations in communities that are unserved or underserved by transit.
  • Requires the Secretary to consider equity and environmental justice under the new Active Connected Transportation grant program, which funds comprehensive bike networks in communities as well as long-distance connectors and trails ($250 million per year).
  • Doubles the set aside for urban areas formula dollars based on low-income population and deep poverty census tracts and directs transit agencies to serve these populations.
  • Creates a new program to bring transit rail stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Adds additional planning considerations for accessibility and equity, including a holistic look at housing and land use policies, in both the statewide and metropolitan planning processes.
  • Creates a grant program to examine the costs and benefits of allowing flexibility in paratransit trips that allow one stop for certain needs like dropping children off at daycare or school or stopping briefly at the pharmacy, grocery store, or bank.
  • Requires the U.S. Access Board to finalize guidelines for access by disabled pedestrians to the public right-of-way.
  • Revises the goals of the National Highway Freight program to include further consideration of environmental justice and equity impacts.
  • Provides multiple incentives in the Capital Investment Grant ratings process if the project preserves or encourages higher density affordable housing near a project.
  • Revises the provisions of the National Strategic Freight Plan, the National Multimodal Freight Policy, and the State Freight Plans to include further considerations of environmental justice and equity impacts.
  • Establishes an Office of Transit-Supportive Communities to make grants, provide technical assistance, coordinate transit-housing policies across the federal government, and incorporate strategies to promote equity for underrepresented and underserved communities.
  • Reestablishes the Transportation Equity Research Program that will focus on the impacts of surface transportation planning, investment, and operations on underserved populations.  
  • Establishes a national clearinghouse to examine the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs), including research into the land use and social equity impacts of AVs.
  • Allows a transit grantee to transfer property no longer needed to a local government authority, non-profit, or other third party for the purpose of transit-oriented development and releases the federal interest in that asset. Requires that at least 40%of the housing units in such a project be offered as affordable housing.
  • Requires the Secretary to issue best practices to better scope which types of transit service changes trigger a review under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
  • Directs the Secretary to make grants to an eligible non-profit institution of higher education to establish and operate a national Center of Excellence for fair and equitable traffic safety enforcement, to promote fair and equitable traffic safety enforcement with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities and injuries.
  • Provides preference within the Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program to projects that improve service to and investment in socially disadvantaged communities.
  • Taking into account the impact of past rail development on minority communities, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program provides preference to projects that improve service to or provide direct benefits to socially disadvantaged groups, including the relocation of right-of-way that affect community connectivity. 
  • Authorizes the Secretary to establish workforce development pilot programs in partnership with railroad carriers, allowing for strengthened minority outreach and workforce diversity.
  • Requires the Secretary to consider track records of fostering economic development in disadvantaged communities through rail transportation systems in awarding funding to interstate rail compacts. 
  • Requires the Secretary to consider how projects will positively impact the accessibility of affordable housing within a region when awarding high-speed rail corridor planning assistance.
  • Makes Indian tribes eligible for competitive rail funding in the PRIME, CRISI, BeST and Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Separation grant programs.
  • Requires Amtrak to conduct a comprehensive review of all Amtrak policies, procedures, protocols, and guidelines for accessibility for passengers with disabilities in coordination with representatives of the disability advocacy community. 

Rebuilding Rural America

Rural America faces significant challenges in fixing crumbling roads and bridges, providing access to good-paying jobs, and ensuring the safety of their communities. The INVEST in America Act provides landmark investment in rural communities, dedicating record resources to improving safety, state of good repair, and access to jobs and services.

  • Provides $290 billion in directly apportioned funding to state departments of transportation to invest in communities of all sizes to improve safety, fix roads and bridges, and improve access to jobs. Project decisions will be made by state and local governments, not the federal government.
  • Reforms the Surface Transportation Program to ensure that smaller cities and towns receive their fair share of highway funding.
  • Increases the off-system bridge set-aside, providing approximately $1 billion in annual investment in off-system bridges out of highway formulas to repair deficient and unsafe bridges in rural and small communities.
  • Establishes a new Rebuild Rural Bridges discretionary grant program to provide $1 billion to rehabilitate or replace off-system bridges, Tribal bridges, and other rural bridges in poor condition.
  • Increases funding for dedicated rural transit formula grants by 50%, supporting rural transit infrastructure.
  • Increases the High-Risk Rural Roads set-aside to direct more funding for crucial safety projects in rural communities.
  • Provides $2.4 billion over the life of the bill for a new Community Transportation Investment Grant program dedicated to local government applicants in communities of all sizes. At least 25% of these funds must be spent in rural areas.
  • Sets aside $50 million a year for rural areas with persistent poverty counties, defined as a county with a poverty rate above 20% since 1990. Requires states to distribute these federal funds to persistent poverty counties.
  • Provides $1 billion over the life of the bill for Community Climate Investment Grants to reduce carbon pollution, dedicated to applicants in communities of all sizes, including an emphasis on rural persistent poverty communities.
  • Streamlines the TIFIA grant program to make it easier for rural projects to access federal loan assistance, expediting the credit rating process, waiving fees for more projects, and requiring DOT to report on the location of TIFIA-assisted projects.
  • Boosts total tribal transportation funding to $1 billion per year in guaranteed investment, which will predominantly support rural areas.
  • Creates a Mobility Innovation program that allows rural transit agencies to invest in new mobility technologies to provide innovative service that meets the unique needs of rural areas.
  • Provides for the creation of additional critical rural freight corridors, allowing states to direct funds to high-priority roadways essential for keeping our economy moving.
  • Streamlines the process by which the Federal Transit Administration provides funds to rural and small communities, ensuring that they receive federal funds more quickly.
  • Establishes a new wildlife crossings program to reduce vehicle-wildlife crashes and improve habitat connectivity and sets aside 50% of funding for rural areas.
  • Ensures better coordination between states and broadband entities, supporting “dig once” policies that will allow for better access to broadband for rural America. 
  • Increases the amount of funds that rural recipients can use for workforce training and capacity building.
  • Provides $29.3 billion for Amtrak, of which $16.2 billion is dedicated to Amtrak’s National Network, which includes long-distance and state-supported routes that connect rural communities.
  • Provides $7 billion for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, of which $1.05 billion is dedicated to rural projects, 280% more than the FAST Act set-aside.
  • Renews Amtrak’s mandate to provide long distance service to the entire country—beyond coastal population centers.

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