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How BUILD grants are building a Bicycle Friendly America

BUILD 2019 by the Numbers

  • $883 Million in grants awarded
  • 55 projects in 35 states.
  • DOT received 666 eligible applications for a total of $9.6 Billion
  • 50% in Rural areas

The US Department of Transportation announced $883 million in BUILD Grant awardees yesterday. Of the 55 projects awarded, 21 included significant funding for bicycling and walking while five others included some pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. 

Lessons learned

Project Benefits. The US DOT list of projects includes a short paragraph on the benefits of the projects. In the projects that include bicycling and walking infrastructure, there are several notable trends in what DOT lists as their benefits:

  1. Connectivity/access to jobs, services and education. Many of the successful grant applications note that bicycling and walking infrastructure connects citizens to destinations and improves quality of life.
  2. Safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. Both FHWA and the Office of the Secretary have highlighted the need to address pedestrian and bicycle safety, and most of these projects list that as a benefit.
  3. Economic development. Whether through tourism, connectivity or foot traffic, several projects highlight the benefit of economic development.
  4. Congestion relief/reduction of emissions. Several projects include bicycling and walking infrastructure with the goal of increasing alternative modes of transportation to reduce congestion.

Project type breakdown.  This is the third year of BUILD grants under the Chao DOT. Bike/ped did well the first year, not the second, and does well again this year. Transit is on the opposite schedule, they did well last year, but not the first year or this year (although this year is better than 2017.) I don’t know if this is a pattern, or just a coincidence but it is something to watch. 

Multi-modal projects are still plentiful. BUILD is still a good source for complete streets projects. While applicants don’t feel the same imperative to include multi-modal elements in street projects the way they had under Secretary LaHood, roughly 40 percent of all 2019 winners included bicycling and walking in some way. This is better than expected. 

No guarantee on bike/ped in multi-modal projects.  During the early years of the grant program, the US DOT used to specify what part of the project the grant (then named TIGER) would fund. For instance, it would specify the funding should go to bicycling and walking access on a bridge project. The grant never funds the full project so this specification was helpful. The BUILD grants do not specify what elements of a project it is funding, so there is a possibility the project may change based on funding availability.

It often takes more than one try. Several of these projects had applied in the past. If you were working on a project that didn’t get funding, please check in with US DOT to get feedback, and reapply!

Download a full list of bike/ped-related BUILD Grants.