Ever since it was signed into law in November 2021, everyone in the transportation industry has been talking about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The $1.2 trillion package—the largest of and most comprehensive infrastructure bill in U.S. history—will fund everything from road and bridge improvements to public transit to broadband internet.
But what does the IIJA mean for road safety, particularly for vulnerable users like pedestrian, cyclists, and people with disabilities? That’s the question we hope to answer in this series of articles, which will highlight programs within the act that cities and towns can utilize to improve safety and achieve their Vision Zero goals.
First up: Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A), a new discretionary grant program that will provide $1 billion a year to projects and plans aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries on America’s roadways (commonly referred to as Vision Zero initiatives).
What type of funding is it?
While transportation funding is generally apportioned to states based on formulas specified by federal law (based on factors like population, size, and “total lane miles”), one of the things that’s so exciting about the BIL is the amount of funding it makes available through discretionary (i.e. competitive) grant programs. SS4A is one of these, meaning it requires organizations to first apply and then report regularly on the progress and final results of their project.
How much is available?
The program authorizes $5 billon over the next 5 years, with $1 billion available in the 2022 fiscal year (the same amount will be made available for each of the next four years). Individual grants of $200,000 to $50,000,000 will be awarded, with an 80% federal / 20% local match cost share.
Who can apply?
Unlike most federal transportation funding which filters through state DOTs (and is therefore often put toward state-level priorities), SS4A grants are aimed specifically at cities, towns, counties, metropolitan organizations (MPOs), transit agencies, and tribal governments. Joint applications are strongly encouraged (for example, an MPO applying for and distributing funds to members for individual action plans).
How can the funds be used?
The program is intended to fund the development and implementation of Comprehensive Safety Action Plans, which is defined as plans “aimed at preventing transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries in a locality, commonly referred to as a ‘Vision Zero’ or ‘Toward Zero Deaths’ plan.”
Grants are divided into two categories: Action Plans (which represent 40% of the total funding) and Implementation (which represent 60%). Funding can therefore be used to support the development of the plan itself (i.e. planning, design, and development activities), or to execute on actual projects and/or strategies. Examples of both types of grant activities can be found on the USDOT’s program page.
What selection criteria will be used?
According to a “pre-application” webinar presented by USDOT, several factors will be taken into account during the selection process, including the extent to which each proposed project:
- is likely to reduce or eliminate transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries
- demonstrates engagement with a variety of public and private stakeholders
- seeks to adopt innovative technologies or strategies to promote safety
- employs low-cost, high-impact strategies that can improve safety over a wider geographical area
- ensures equitable investment in the safety needs of underserved communities in preventing transportation-related fatalities and injuries
How and when do I apply?
Applications for the SS4A grants are open now and will remain so until 5:00 p.m. EDT on September 15, 2022 at grants.gov. Before applying, all applicants must complete the grants.gov registration, including obtaining a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). This can take up to four weeks, so it’s a good idea to begin the process now even if you aren’t ready to apply for the grant.
Whether you’re an engineer, planner, or community advocate, now is the time to bring in new funding for projects and strategies that help curb preventable roadway deaths and injuries. These SS4A grants offer the opportunity to effect meaningful, lasting change in your community—we strongly encourage you to apply.
Grant application (grants.gov)
Grant fact sheet (FHWA)
Tips for making the most of SS4A funding (Vision Zero network)
How to direct federal road funding into your community (America Walks)
USDOT’s competitive grants (Transportation for America)
Traffic safety grants and funding (Carmanah)