According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), of the more than 617,000 bridges across the United States, about 46,000 are in poor or structurally deficient condition.
To remedy this dangerous situation, Congress and the Biden administration have earmarked significant additional funding to maintain and repair old structures and build new ones through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The IJAA includes two programs targeting bridge infrastructure:
- The Bridge Formula Program (BFP)
- The Bridge Investment Program (BIP).
The initiatives have similar goals. However, there are significant differences.
It’s critical for states, municipalities, and companies in the bridge industry to understand the differences between them so they can leverage government bridge funding to the fullest.
BFP versus BIP: The differences
The Bridge Formula Program, as its name suggests, is a formula-based federal funding program. The Bridge Investment Program is a competitive discretionary federal initiative.
With a formula grant, the program’s funding is given out to states based on a formula or mathematical calculation. In the case of the IJAA, the FHWA provides funding to each state based on the costs of replacing all highway bridges classified in poor condition and rehabilitating all those currently in fair condition. States can expect to receive their allotted amount each fiscal year without doing anything.
Competitive grants must be applied for. Federal officials will score each application against all the others. The submissions that score the highest will receive funding. The FHWA seeks applications for BIP funding through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).
BFP and BIP: The bridge funding opportunities
The minimum amount each state will receive in BFP funding from the United States government is $45 million for each fiscal year through the year 2026. The money must be used by states, at their discretion, for highway bridge replacement, rehabilitation, preservation, protection, or construction work on public roads. With one exception, to use these funds, states must provide one dollar of their own funding for every four dollars in federal BFP funds.
Be aware: The FHWA allows states to use BFP funding for new bridge initiatives. However, it prefers that states leverage it for improvements to existing bridge infrastructure that’s in poor condition and to take steps to improve the structural viability of bridges in fair condition.
The FHWA promotes using BFP funds for projects that address racial and economic inequality or restore community connectivity. States can use federal funds to cover the total cost of these projects without having to put up state dollars.
The FHWA is seeking BIP funding applications for three types of spending:
- Planning grants
- Bridge projects
- Large bridge projects.
States can apply to one, two, or all three of these opportunities.
The BIP allots $20 million each fiscal year for planning grants that will fund the planning, feasibility analysis, and revenue forecasting projects, which will then be eligible to apply for bridge project or large bridge project funding.
The FHWA defines bridge projects as those costing less than $100 million. A BIP grant for a bridge project must be:
- Large enough to fully fund the initiative
- No less than $2.5 million
- No more than 80 percent of the total eligible project costs (unless the bridge unites a divided community or corrects racial or economic prejudice.)
Large bridge projects are those valued at greater than $100 million. For large bridge projects, a grant must be big enough to fully fund the project, no less than $50 million, with a maximum award of no more than 50 percent of the total development cost.
Bridge construction for BIP-funded projects must start within 18 months after the date funding is granted. Preliminary engineering must be completed on the initiative at the same time.
The application deadline for 2022 BIP grants has passed, but it’s essential to be prepared to apply for next year’s funding, which will be highly competitive.
The bottom line
The BFP and BIP programs both aim to improve current U.S. bridge infrastructure. However, there are significant differences. Understanding them is paramount to maxing out the use of all the infrastructure dollars currently available to you.