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RAISE 2021 Applications FAQs

2021 FREQUENLTY ASKED QUESTIONS

 1. What is the RAISE Grant Program?

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 appropriated $1 billion, available for obligation through September 30, 2024, for National Infrastructure Investments. As with previous rounds, funds for FY 2021 RAISE grants are to be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact.

Funding provided under National Infrastructure Investments have supported capital and planning projects such as repairing or improving infrastructure to a state of good repair; projects that implement safety improvements to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, including improving grade crossings or providing shorter or more direct access to critical health services; projects that connect communities and people to jobs, services, and education; and, projects that anchor economic revitalization and job growth in communities. 

2. Are RAISE grants the same as BUILD grants?
Yes. In FY 2021, the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants were renamed to Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants.  

3. When is the application deadline?

The deadline for all application materials is July 12, 2021 at 5:00 pm Eastern.

4. Where can I submit the application?

Final applications must be submitted through Grants.gov.

5. What if I am having technical issues with grants.gov?

Please refer to the following links for technical issues with grants.gov:

Grants.gov Applicant Training

Grants.gov Online User Guide

You can also contact Grants.gov Customer Support Hotline at 1-800-518-4726, Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. E.D.T.

6. Who can receive RAISE Grants?

Eligible Applicants for RAISE grants are State, local and tribal governments, including U.S. territories, transit agencies, port authorities, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other political subdivisions of State or local governments.

Multiple States or jurisdictions may submit a joint application and must identify a lead applicant as the primary point of contact, and identify the primary recipient of the award. Joint applications must include a description of the roles and responsibilities of each applicant.

7. Are Tribes eligible to apply?

Yes, Tribal Governments are eligible applicants. Improvements to Federally owned facilities are not eligible for RAISE grant funds. Examples of Federally owned facilities include infrastructure owned by the National Park Service or General Services Administration.  However, projects on facilities that are owned by an eligible applicant, but located on Federally owned land for which the title or maintenance responsibility is vested in the Federal Government, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs-owned roads, are eligible.

8. Are RAISE Grants a lump-sum cash disbursement at the time of award, or are they reimbursement grants? How do reimbursement grants work?

The primary method of grant disbursement for RAISE Grants is through reimbursements. RAISE grant recipients will not receive a lump-sum cash disbursement at the time of award announcement or obligation of funds.  Instead, the recipient must pay project costs as they are incurred and submit to DOT requests for reimbursement. This means that the recipient must have access to sufficient non-RAISE funding sources to manage cash flow associated with the project.

9. What types of projects are eligible for RAISE Grants?

Eligible projects for RAISE grants are:

  • Capital projects that include, but are not limited to:
    • road or bridge projects eligible under title 23, United States Code;
    • public transportation projects eligible under chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code;
    • passenger and freight rail transportation projects;
    • port infrastructure investments (including inland port infrastructure and land ports of entry);
    • intermodal projects
    • projects investing in surface transportation facilities that are located on tribal land and for which title or maintenance responsibility is vested in the Federal Government
  • Planning projects which include planning, preparation, or design (for example- environmental analysis, feasibility studies, and other pre-construction activities) of eligible surface transportation capital projects.

10. What are the definitions for urban and rural under RAISE?

 FY 2021 RAISE grants use the same definition for urban and rural as the FY 2020 BUILD round.

A project is designated as urban if it is located within or on the boundary of an Urbanized Area (UA), as designated by the U.S. Census Bureau, and that UA had a population greater than 200,000 in the 2010 Census. If a project is not designated as urban, it is designated as rural.  

A project will be designated as rural if it is located:

  • In an UA that had a population less than 200,000 in the 2010 Census, or
  • In a Census designated Urban Cluster, or
  • Outside an UA.

For example, a project located in an Urbanized Area with a population of 150,000 will be designated as rural under the FY 2021 RAISE program.  In contrast, a project located in an Urbanized Area with a population of 250,000 will be designated as urban, even if the city or town in which the project is located has a population of 100,000.

For projects that include expenditures in both urban areas and rural areas, the Department will designate the project as urban or rural based on where the majority of project funds will be spent.

11. How do applicants determine if the project is urban or rural?

To determine if a location is in a Census-Designated UA, please consult Census maps of Urbanized Areas:

https://www.census.gov/geographies/reference-maps/2010/geo/2010-census-urban-areas.html  (detailed PDF maps for every UA)

https://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/tigerweb2020/  (Be sure to select “Vintage” Census 2010, then select Urban Areas and zoom to your project location)

A list of all UAs that had a population over 200,000 in the 2010 Census can be found here:

https://www.transportation.gov/RAISEgrants/urbanized-areas 

12. Are planning grants available for the FY2021 RAISE Grants?

Yes. Per the FY 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Department will award no more than $30 million for eligible planning and preconstruction activities that do not result in the construction of a capital project. Of that $30 million, at least $10 million is for projects located in or directly benefitting Areas of Persistent Poverty (see FAQ related to Areas of Persistent Poverty).

13. Can a planning grant include right-of-way acquisition?

Projects that involve right-of-way acquisition are considered capital projects under the RAISE grant 2021 program. The Department will require projects that involve right-of-way acquisition without subsequent construction with RAISE grant funding to complete the anticipated improvements on that right-of-way within an agreed upon period. Projects that involve pre-construction activities without right-of-way acquisition will be considered planning grants.

14. Can pre-construction activities (such as, NEPA and design expenses) be included in a capital project?

Yes. To the extent possible, the Department encourages applicants to submit applications for either planning or capital projects. However, an applicant can submit an applicant for a project that includes both preconstruction activities and construction. If funding is awarded to both phases of that project, it would be designated as a capital project. Projects that do not fund construction or right-of-way acquisition with FY 2021 RAISE grant funds are considered planning projects. Projects that include both preconstruction activities and construction should demonstrate their ability to meet necessary requirements and obligate all funding by the September 30, 2024 obligation deadline.

RAISE grant funds and non-Federal match expended on preconstruction activities prior to grant agreement obligation must be pre-approved in writing by the Department of Transportation and are subject to the relevant Operating Administration’s requirements.

15. Are projects improving Federally owned facilities eligible?

No, improvements to Federally owned facilities are not eligible for RAISE grant funds. Examples of Federally owned facilities include infrastructure owned by the National Park Service or General Services Administration.  However, projects on facilities that are owned by an eligible applicant, but located on Federally owned land for which the title or maintenance responsibility is vested in the Federal Government, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs-owned roads, are eligible.

16. Are facilities that receive or have received Federal funding eligible?

Yes, RAISE grants that use other sources of Federal funding, or have in the past, are eligible as long as the facility is owned and operated by a non-Federal, eligible applicant.  For projects designated as urban, total Federal funding cannot exceed 80 percent of total future eligible project costs.  For any project with other Federal funds, the applicant must independently satisfy matching requirements for those Federal funds. A previous BUILD/TIGER award, or application, does not affect competitiveness under the FY 2021 RAISE grant competition. Recipients of BUILD/TIGER grants may apply for funding to support additional phases of a project previously awarded funds in the BUILD/TIGER program.

17. What types of airport projects are eligible for RAISE Grants?

As referenced in the NOFO, intermodal projects located at airport facilities are eligible for RAISE grants, provided they are compatible with the FAA-approved Airport Layout Plan. Examples of eligible projects at airports include transit connections to airports, transit connections, intermodal freight transfer facilities, and rail extensions, as well as publicly-accessible roads into, out of, and through airport properties.

Examples of ineligible airport projects include runways, taxiways, towers, terminals, aprons, gates, and people movers within airports.

18. How much will the Department award to rural and urban projects?

Not more than 50 percent ($500 million) will be spent on projects located in urban and rural areas, respectively. 

19. How do applicants determine if the project is located in an Area of Persistent Poverty?

A project is located in an Areas of Persistent Poverty if :

  1. the county in which the project is located consistently had greater than or equal to 20 percent of the population living in poverty in all three of the following datasets: (a) the 1990 decennial census; (b) the 2000 decennial census; and (c) the 2019 Small Area Income Poverty Dataset), or
  2. the census tract in which the project is located has a poverty rate of at least 20 percent as measured by the 2014-2018 5-year data series available from the American Community Survey of the Bureau of the Census; or
  3. the project is located in any territory or possession of the United States.

Please note: the FY 2021 definition for Area of Persistent Poverty may different from other DOT programs, including the FY 2020 FTA Hope Discretionary Grant program.

DOT lists all counties and census tracts that meet this definition for Areas of Persistent Poverty on the RAISE website:

 https://transportation.gov/RAISEgrants/raise-areas-persistent-poverty.

If the project is not located in an Area of Persistent Poverty but directly benefits such an area, the application should clearly and explicitly describe those benefits and the affected county or census tract(s). For a project to directly benefit an Area of Persistent Poverty, measurable and non-trivial outcomes, consistent with the selection criteria, must be located in that Area of persistent poverty.

 20. If a project is in multiple counties or census tracts, but not all counties or census tracts are designated as an Area of Persistent Poverty, does it qualify as a project in an Area of Persistent Poverty?

A project located in multiple counties or census tracts will be designated as an Area of Persistent Poverty if the majority of the project’s costs will be spent in county(ies) or census tract(s) that meet the definition of Areas of Persistent Poverty. All counties or census tracts that meet this definition are listed on the RAISE website, at https://www.transportation.gov/RAISEgrants/raise-areas-persistent-poverty.

Additionally, if the majority of the project is not located in an Area of Persistent Poverty but directly benefits such an area, the application should clearly and explicitly describe those benefits and the affected county or census tracts. For a project to directly benefit an Area of Persistent Poverty, measurable and non-trivial outcomes, consistent with the selection criteria, must be located in that Area of persistent poverty

21. What are the minimum and maximum grant award sizes?

For capital projects located in urban areas, the minimum award is $5 million.  Please note that the minimum total project cost for a project located in an urban area must be $6.25 million to meet match requirements.  

For capital projects located in rural areas, the minimum award is $1 million.

The maximum award for all projects is $25 million.  Not more than $100 million can be awarded to a single State.

There is no minimum award size for planning grants, including planning grants for projects located in Areas of Persistent Poverty.

22. How will the Department evaluate cost share and matching funds?

The Department will not use Federal share as a selection criterion in awarding projects.

Per the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, RAISE grants may be used for up to 80 percent of the costs of projects located in an urban area and up to 100 percent of the costs of a project located in a rural area or a planning project that is located in or is to directly benefit an Area of Persistent Poverty.  

Non-Federal financial contributions can include State, local, and private sector funding; or other forms of cost share such right of way contributions. Unless otherwise authorized by statute, non-Federal cost-share may not be counted as the non-Federal share for both the RAISE grant and another Federal grant program.

23. Can an application contain more than one project component?

Yes, if the components demonstrate a strong relationship or connection between them.  DOT strongly encourages each applicant to identify in their application the project components that have independent utility, independently align with the selection criteria, and meet NEPA requirements; and DOT encourages each applicant to separately detail the costs and requested RAISE grant funding for those components, as well as the overall RAISE grant funding request. 

24. How many applications can an eligible applicant submit?

Applicants may submit a total of three (3) project applications (planning and/or capital) for RAISE grants. If a lead applicant submits more than three applications as the lead applicant, only the first three received will be considered. 

25. Are Planning Grant applications required to submit a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA)?

No. Planning applications do not need to submit a BCA.

26. If an application includes multiple project components with independent utility, is a BCA needed for each component or only for the entire project?

While USDOT allows for packages of projects to be included in a single grant application, each component of such package with independent utility should be evaluated separately, with its own BCA. The costs and benefits of each individual component may also be aggregated to provide a summary estimate of net benefits for the entire package. Where projects within a package may be expected to also have collective benefits that are larger than the sum of the benefits of the individual project components, applicants should clearly explain why this would be the case and provide any supporting analyses to that effect. DOT recognizes the technical challenges in preparing a BCA and encourages applicants to do their best in demonstrating the anticipated benefits and estimated costs of the entire project as well as appropriate components.

27. Is capital equipment or rolling stock eligible for RAISE grants?

Yes, equipment is eligible, but Federal requirements apply to the use of any grant funding.  Please see section F.2. of the RAISE grants NOFO for information on Federal requirements. However, RAISE grant projects involving vehicle acquisition must involve only vehicles that comply with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), or vehicles that are exempt from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in a manner that allows for the legal acquisition and deployment of the vehicle or vehicles.

28. What broadband activities are eligible for a RAISE Grant?

Broadband deployment as a standalone project is not eligible for RAISE grant funding. If construction of the transportation project will allow concurrent installation of high-speed broadband networks, the applicant should describe those activities and how they support the innovation selection criterion.  Unless the concurrent activities support transportation, they will not be eligible for reimbursement.  

29. Are eligible projects allowed to apply to multiple discretionary grant programs such as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program or the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP)?

Projects that meet the minimum eligibility requirements for the programs may submit applications to multiple programs, but must submit separate applications that independently address how the project satisfies applicable selection criteria for the relevant grant program. If a project is submitted to multiple programs, and that scope of work is the same for each application, the Department may conduct a single Benefit Cost Analysis for that project, as stated in the RAISE grant NOFO.

30. How does an applicant receive feedback on previous BUILD or TIGER Transportation grant submissions to improve chances of success?

The Department strives to provide as much information as possible to assist applicants with the application process.  The Department will not review applications in advance, but Department staff are available for technical questions and assistance. RAISE grant program staff will address questions to RAISEgrants@dot.gov throughout the application period.

31. How does the evaluation process work?

The Operating Administrations will review the technical capacity for all eligible applications concurrent with the Merit Criteria Evaluation. The Merit Criteria are: safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, partnership, and innovation.

Merit Criteria Evaluation Teams review all eligible applications and provide one of the following overall ratings for each project:  Highly Recommended, Recommended, Acceptable, or Unacceptable. Projects rated Acceptable or Unacceptable will not receive second-tier analysis. These ratings are based on the project’s alignment with the merit criteria, the project’s local or regional impact, and the content and credibility of information in the application.

If the Merit Criteria Evaluation Team rates a project as Highly Recommended, and the Senior Review Team recommends additional analysis, that project receives (1) an Economic Analysis (2) Environmental Risk assessment; and (3) Financial Capacity Assessment.  The Economic Analysis assesses the proposed project’s estimated benefit-cost ratio and net quantifiable benefits.  The Environmental Risk assessment analyzes the project’s environmental approvals and likelihood of the necessary approval affecting project obligation.  The Financial Capacity assessment reviews the availability of matching funds. 

A Senior Review Team, comprising Departmental leadership, considers the analysis to determine which projects to advance to the Secretary for consideration. The Secretary will ultimately make the final selection for awards, consistent with the statutory requirements for RAISE Grants and the selection criteria in the NOFO. Planning grants will not receive an Economic Analysis or Environmental Risk assessment.

32. When will awards be made?

Under the FY 2021 Appropriations Act, the Department must make awards by November 22, 2021. The Department will post awards to the RAISE Grants website (www.transportation.gov/RAISEgrants). Selected awardees may not be notified, and should visit the RAISE Grants website for award information.

33. What is the difference between the obligation and expenditure deadlines?

The obligation deadline, September 30, 2024, is the date by which a RAISE grant award recipient must have a signed and executed grant agreement in place with the DOT, after receiving the necessary environmental approvals.  The execution of the grant agreement obligates RAISE grant funding for the awarded project.  The expenditure deadline of September 30, 2029, is the date by which all RAISE grant funding must be expended.

34. If a consulting firm is hired to help develop a RAISE grants application and that project is selected for a RAISE grants award, can that same firm be hired to perform the construction project design and engineering after award?

Under 2 CFR 200.317 and 1201.317, if the recipient of the RAISE grant is a state, then the recipient must follow the same policies and procedures it uses for procurements from its non-Federal funds, and the answer to this question is dependent on those policies and procedures.

If the recipient is not a state, the answer is yes, the same firm may be hired if necessary competition requirements are satisfied. Per CFR 200.319, all procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner that provides full and open competition, eliminates unfair competitive advantage, and ensures objective contractor performance. Project sponsors must avoid creating situations that would unfairly favor the firm that helped develop the RAISE application or preclude other firms from competing. Additionally, the contractor that the project sponsor hires to draft its solicitation for proposals for the construction project design and engineering work must be excluded from competing for that procurement.

For the purpose of RAISE grants, “state” means any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any state agency or instrumentality excluding local governments.

35. Where do we send letters of support?

Letters of support may be submitted with the application, sent electronically to RAISEgrants@dot.gov, or mailed via hard copy to Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the US Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington DC, 20590. To the extent possible, the Department will consider letters of support submitted after the application deadline.

 

 

 

Regulatory Topic: BUILD
Published Date: Thursday, May 3, 2018