WASHINGTON, D.C. — (Press release) Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Biden-Harris Administration has awarded $10.4 million from the new Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (Rural) to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to support the Mobility for Everyone, Everywhere in North Carolina (MEE NC) Project.
The project will expand on-demand transit services for up to 11 rural communities across North Carolina: Henderson, Selma, Marion, Asheboro, Burlington, the City of Wilson, Rockingham County, the City of Sanford, Castle Hayne, Salisbury, and Rocky Mount.
The project will provide improved connectivity for these 11 rural communities by providing on-demand services that are tailored to each community’s mobility needs. The project will encourage pooled transit trips to reduce emissions, reduce wait times and improve travel time reliability in rural areas, and extend the useful life of transit vehicles and equipment. It will also further the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s goals of creating an interdependent multi-modal transportation network that safely accommodates all users.
Due to decades of disinvestment, around 13% of rural roads and 10% of off-system bridges, most of which are in rural areas, are in poor condition. The fatality rate on rural roads is also two times greater than on urban roads. Facing these sobering figures, the Biden Administration made supporting Americans living in rural areas a top priority. And with a total of $44 billion available through the infrastructure law to help rural communities repair and improve their roads, bridges, airports, ports, and transit systems, USDOT is leading the charge to help rebuild rural transportation systems to benefit residents for decades to come.
“Infrastructure investments haven’t always reached rural America, leaving far too many roads, bridges and other parts of the transportation system across our country in disrepair,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Today’s announcement is one of many ways this administration is delivering the investments that rural communities have gone without for far too long, modernizing transportation, creating economic opportunity and making life better for millions of people.”
The program, which is new this year thanks to President Biden’s historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, will invest a total of approximately $2 billion through 2026 for projects that improve highways, bridges, and tunnels, address highway safety, increase access to agricultural, commercial, energy, or freight facilities that support the economy, and bring flexible transit services to rural and Tribal areas. The Department received applications requesting approximately $10 billion in funding, far exceeding the nearly $300 million in 2022 funding available.
More information about this year’s Rural grant recipients can be found HERE.
Applications were evaluated based on several criteria, including project readiness, cost-effectiveness, and whether the project supported critical goals like enhancing safety, increasing mobility and reliability, improving resiliency and restoring infrastructure to a state of good repair. Applicants for the Rural program also benefited from a streamlined application process that reduced the burden for applicants by allowing them to submit one application for three different grant programs: Rural, the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA), and the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance program (Mega).
For more information about the Rural program and the combined Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant funding opportunity, click HERE.
USDOT announced INFRA award recipients in September and expects to announce the recipients of this round of Mega funding early next year.
In North Carolina, over the next five years President Biden’s infrastructure law will invest $7.8 billion in roads and bridges, $920 million for public transportation, $109 million for electric vehicle charging, and $460 million for airports. For more on how this historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure benefits North Carolina, click HERE.