3.16 billion Available for Applications Due 28 September
There is currently a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the USDOT Reconnecting Communities Program (RCP) open through September 28, 2023 offers $3.16 Billion to enhance equity and vitality through transportation investment. The program supports communities seeking to:
- Equity and Environmental Justice
- Facility Suitability
- Community Engagement
- Community-based Stewardship, Management, and Partnership
- Equitable Development
- Climate and Environment
- Workforce Development and Economic Opportunity
To make a strong business case for these grants, it is often necessary to go beyond the typical planning and performance factors, or distributive (heat mapping) approaches to equity to consider new factors. There is a body of emerging research that can enable communities to make the most of this program. Some factors differentiating a successful application include:
#1 Right-Sizing the Portfolio: A key objective of reconnecting communities is demonstrating how the current infrastructure portfolio includes legacy infrastructure (1) no longer generates the return on investment for which it was intended or (2) no longer represents the best and highest use of the space, time, preservation dollars or other resources it consumes. There is an outstanding NCHRP guide (Right-Sizing Transportation Investments) led by Metro Analtyics, which offers practical guidance on diagnosing and addressing these situations in RCP planning grant applications.
#2 Innovative Understanding of Benefits: The valid benefits of a reconnecting communities project may not show up if applying the typical BCA spreadsheets that most engineering and planning firms use. For example, the benefits of a more equitable neighborhood, restoring a culture, revitalizing urban ecology, creating an aesthetic and livable environment – all defy the VMT and VHT driven metrics that most consultants and analysts apply in making a business case. For this reason, engaging professionals who have done more specialized BCA’s can help pinpoint opportunities for RCP grants that likely will be understated by the usual suspects.
#3 Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Equity: Another key objective of the program is to achieve more equitable development. While many applications will use the latest heat maps and dashboards to demonstrate how programs or alternatives distribute benefits to disadvantaged populations, the most innovative applications will consider historical and ethnographic approaches. For example, articulating ho the Reconnecting Communities investment fits into the historical pattern of events shaping a communities future, using professionally informed urban/regional archives, ethnographic/cultural evidence and other qualitative methods will differentiate “off the shelf” purely numbers-based applications from compelling and historically significant opportunities. Initiatives like the Historical Equity Action Lens (HEAL) where Metro Analtyics ethnographers and historians collaborate with planners opens such opportunities for applicants to scope our historical equity booster plans that do more than just redistribute benefits – but actually diagnose and shape the historical direction of a place.
#4 Resilience as an Economic Driver: While resilience is the subject of entire USDOT programs, Reconnecting Communities applications that can demonstrate how the resilience of the workforce, labor market access and supply chains are aided by removing barriers to cohesion can make a compelling case in an application. A recent national guide on supply chain/economic network resilience led by Metro Analytics for the national academy of sciences (NCHRP 20-125) reveals practical ways to make this case. When communities often consider resilience only in terms of natural hazards to infrastructure, an effective reconnecting communities application demonstrate how an RCP plan or effort can enhance social and economic resilience as well.
Collaboration: These developments in transportation economic and social research may make the difference between no application and a winning application bringing millions of dollars into communities most in need. To learn more about this research and how it can support applications this year, please reach out to email@example.com.