The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the most substantial highway bill in history called “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act.” Under this bill, a new program would be established to provide $4 billion towards improving road and bridge infrastructure called “PROTECT grants.”
With provisions from Alabama Senator Doug Jones’ “Be SAFE Act” that was introduced in March, the grants would provide $1 billion each year for competitive grants that would serve Alabama’s small and rural communities. Senator Jones believes that these grants would not only provide federal investments to improve infrastructure, but could also bring economic boost to communities.
There are three categories of PROTECT Grants. “The Resilience Improvement Grants” would improve or replace existing surface transportation infrastructure at risk from extreme weather events and natural disasters. “The Community Resiliency and Evacuation Routes “will improve or establish roads for better and safer evacuation during severe weather events. And “At-Risk Coastal Infrastructure Grants” could strengthen, stabilize, or elevate highways and bridges subjected to long-term risk of natural disasters, storm surges, coastal erosion or coastal flooding.
Jones negotiated with committee members to set-aside 25% of the grants for rural communities with populations under 200,000 to ensure that smaller communities won’t have to compete with larger cities. The bill advances to the full Senate for consideration.