Advancing Smart Community Priorities with New Funding Sources Established by the IIJA

Enacted into law on November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) provides $1.2 trillion in spending to improve roads and bridges, deploy broadband and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, enhance resilience against extreme weather and strengthen the electrical grid.

Via new programs for states and competitive grant programs, IIJA establishes funding sources for projects designed to use advanced technologies as tools to transform communities. Covering community priorities including safe streets, digital equity and carbon emission reduction, new provisions and priorities created by the Act make available more than $10 billion dollars for smart and connect community programs.

Distribution of the first tranches of the IIJA funds for the competitive grant initiatives and the new state programs will begin in FY2023 and will continue for the subsequent 4–6 years. The time is right for government leaders — in tandem with their Smart Community project partners — to develop projects and proposals designed to leverage IIJA’s funding opportunities and advance their smart community goals. In this post, we identify funding sources for commonly held smart community objectives; funding source around which champions of Smart Community, either inside or outside of government, can organize initial planning meetings. We identify the Federal departments that will distribute the funds, how much funding is available and the specific sections of the IIJA where you can learn more about each of the funding opportunities.

It is not too early to begin putting in place the project elements that help illustrate that the once-in-a-generation IIJA funding should be awarded to your community.

New sources of funding for five widely held Smart Community objectives:

· Smart and Energy Efficient Streetlights. Section 11403 of the Act establishes a Cardon Reduction Program and lists projects “to replace street lighting and traffic control devices with energy-efficient alternatives;” as eligible for the program. It is estimated that states will receive $6.42 billion over five years from federal highway funds to fund eligible projects. Timing: The Act directs states to develop a transportation carbon reduction strategy no later than 2-years from IIJA’s date of enactment.

· Smart Parking. Section 11404 of the Act establishes a Congestion Relief Program. Under the new program, the US Department of Transportation will award competitive grants to states, local governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and their partners totaling an estimated $250 million. Eligible projects include the deployment of congestion management systems and systems that implement advanced parking technologies. The minimum grant award is $10 million. Timing: The Act authorizes the Secretary to award an estimated $50 million a year for five years.

· Reducing Traffic Congestion and Vision Zero. Section 25005 of the Act establishes a Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant program. The US Department of Transportation will award grants totaling $500 million to state, local and tribal governments to employ “smart city or community technologies” that advance objectives including reducing congestion, improving safety and expand transportation access for the underserved. The Act specifies that grant funds can be used to demonstrate the deployment and use of a collective intelligent infrastructure that allows sensors to collect and report real-time data to inform everyday transportation-related operations and performance. Timing: The Department of Transportation is to award $100 million for each of the first 5 fiscal years after the IIJA’s Enactment.

Additionally, under Section 24112 of the Act, the US Department of Transportation is authorized to establish a “Safe Street and Roads for All” program that will make competitive grants to Metropolitan Planning Organizations, tribal governments, and local governments totaling at least $1 billion. The grants would fund infrastructure and strategies to implement a comprehensive safety plan. Timing: US DoT will solicit proposals no later than 180 days after the date the funding is made available.

· Smart Buildings. Section 40541 of the Act establishes a $500 million Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grant program for K-12 schools and nonprofits. Schools and their partner organizations will submit applications to a competitive grant program for improvements, repairs, or renovations to a school that results in 1) a direct reduction in school energy costs, 2) leads to an improvement in teacher and student health, including indoor air quality and 3) includes the installation of renewable energy technologies. Timing: The Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to award the competitive grants during fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

· Digital Equity and Inclusion. Section 6305 of the Act establishes a Digital Equity Competitive Grant program. Under the new program, State and local governments and their non-profit organization partners can propose projects designed to increase internet access and develop and implement digital inclusion activities that benefit covered populations. The Assistant Secretary of Commerce will grant awards totaling $250 million per year for 5 years. Eligible projects include making available equipment, hardware and software and network technology for broadband services to covered populations at low or no cost. Timing: The Act authorizes the Assistant Secretary of Commerce to award grants totaling $250 million for each of the first 5 fiscal years in which the funds are made available.

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Bill Maguire

A recovering policy wonk, Bill is passionate about the transformative power of advanced networks, open data, machine learning & the Internet of Things (IoT).