Analyzing equity, safety & right-sizing “missing pieces” to win BIL grant funds

  • March 31, 2022
  • Mary-Katherine Duncan

Analysis of key topics needed to land piece of $500 billion transportation funding pie

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorizes more than $500 billion in federal spending over the next five years for new plans, projects and infrastructure to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness in communities across the United States. Yet many communities will miss out on these opportunities if they fail to make a unique case for funding. 

Some of the key success factors for obtaining this funding include analysis of how transportation infrastructure affects social equity, safety, and right-sizing infrastructure for economically optimal returns on investment.

Equity

More than $4 billion is available to local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, and community organizations through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program, and other federal grants. All of them require applicants to show how benefits and costs of new infrastructure will balance out across communities.  

What has been missing from the challenge of making significant progress in achieving more equitable outcomes are analytical approaches that integrate wider disciplinary methods and perspectives into transportation planning. Applying evidence-based research methods from humanities such as history and cultural anthropology can illuminate how and why infrastructure investments have contributed to social inequity. Identifying and answering the questions a methodological historical analysis can reveal can make the case for new investments that can begin to ameliorate legacy costs borne by minoritized communities and prevent new ones in future planning.  This approach can allow agencies to move beyond compliance into greater effectiveness and efficiency in reaching more equitable outcomes.

Safety

More than $5 billion is available through the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) program. SS4A aims to reduce crash rates on U.S. roads, especially crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

What has been missing in the arena of safety solutions is effective analytical approaches using big data sources to help better identify dangerous areas, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. Partnering with big data firms such as Ford and Google has helped firms, like Metro Analytics, to develop tools  that can help local and regional planning agencies produce more fine-grained analysis of impacts on vulnerable individuals and populations and identify areas where risky driving behavior is more common.

Right-sizing

Some $7 billion is available through Strengthening Mobility and Reinventing Transportation (SMART) and Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) grants. Both these require agencies to show how they are aligning legacy infrastructure with today’s needs where neighborhood characteristics, technologies, and underlying needs have changed over time. What has been missing in the approaches to accomplishing this is making the business case with “right-sizing” diagnoses solution sets to reduce life-cycle cost and make the best and highest use of infrastructure, land, and community assets.

Through our work developing  the Transportation Research Board’s national guidance on “right-sizing” transportation infrastructure (NCHRP Report 917), Metro Analytics discovered the immense value that right-sizing solutions can bring to improving fiscal and environmental sustainability and community integration through optimal infrastructure provision and land-use planning. In conjunction with our work on developing , NCHRP 08-124 on Corridor Management solutions, as well as research into equity solutions, we have discovered the added value that rightsizing solutions have when applied to efforts to define corridor management performance metrics and best practice management methodologies for sustainability, economic vitality, and community equity.

The Importance of Asking for Help!

With all of this money to develop and implement so many great solutions – the environment is more competitive than ever to secure the opportunities these dollars represent. Failing to take the time to analyze what’s been missing from existing solutions, and how your grant proposal can differentiate itself by addressing those gaps could be the difference between a win and a loss.  There is a great need to implement the most practical and innovative diagnostic tools to help clients develop compelling grant applications that demonstrate needs, outcomes, and benefits that may be overlooked by conventional analytical approaches. There is an equal need to identify teaming partners that can craft detailed plans and project development processes for your community using awarded grant funds. These types of solution sets include safety action plans, historical equity enhancement plans, next-generation corridor studies, regional or statewide resilience plans or pre-design innovative solution sets. Don’t go it alone!

Reach out to Chandler Duncan or Wade Carroll to explore how Metro Analytics can help you fill in the missing pieces in proposals for BIL-related grant programs.

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