Billions of dollars in federal infrastructure funding is awarded through competitive grants every year. The competitive nature of these grants ensures our tax dollars are being spent wisely on the most important and pressing infrastructure projects across the country. From the Champ Clark Bridge replacement in Louisiana to the South Main Corridor Improvement Project in Maryville and numerous infrastructure projects in between, North Missouri has done an outstanding job of securing these grants over the last few years and I’ve been proud to help them along the way.
However, just like every federal grant process, it can be cumbersome and overwhelming for many communities who don’t have the resources or manpower to navigate the federal bureaucracy to find and secure grants to improve their infrastructure.
With more than 70 percent of our highway miles running through rural America, this impacts everyone, regardless of where we call home. Every day, Americans take more than one billion trips, many of which rely on rural roads to get them where they’re going. In fact, urban residents make up roughly half of the traffic on rural roads. Even in this time of social distancing, when many Americans are choosing to forgo trips and stay home, we still rely on rural roads to get our agriculture products from the farm to the supermarket and ship American-made products across the country.
With this in mind, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao unveiled the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) Initiative in St. Louis last October. This innovative approach is designed to give small rural communities a better shot at getting more of these federal transportation grants.
The ROUTES Initiative provides rural grant applicants with a user-friendly toolkit to navigate USDOT discretionary grant programs and the application process. It’s designed to help communities with every level of grant application experience and maximize their success in securing the transportation funding they need.
You can find the ROUTES Initiative toolkit at https://www.transportation.gov/rural.
Making sure North Missouri communities can compete on a level playing field for transportation dollars has been a focus of mine for years. When I introduced the STARTER Act earlier this year to make smart investments in our nation’s infrastructure, addressing the needs in rural areas like ours was one of my top priorities. I’m glad to see the Trump Administration, and Secretary Chao in particular, have recognized this need and implemented the ROUTES Initiative to get the job done.