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MassDOT Tries Again – With Smaller Expectations – For Federal Megaproject Funding

Last year, Massachusetts submitted five applications for these discretionary grant programs, but did not receive funding for any.

9:07 AM EDT on August 22, 2023

The site of the future West Station, seen from the Cambridge Street overpass in Allston. A realignment of the Massachusetts Turnpike through this area could touch off a massive urban development scheme on the vacant Harvard-owned lands visible in the distance – but only if someone is willing to pay for it.

MassDOT has re-submitted scaled-back applications for federal funding to finance several megaprojects, including its Allston I-90 project and replacement of the Cape Cod bridges, after the feds declined to fund the same projects in last year's round of applications.

The funding requests will compete for the U.S. Department of Transportation's new Multimodal Project Discretionary Program, a trio of multi-billion-dollar competitive grant programs that were created or expanded in the 2021 infrastructure law.

These programs are intended to help states finance unusually large and complex projects, but they are also extremely competitive.

One of those grant programs – the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants program, otherwise known as the MEGA grant – received over 260 applications seeking over $35 billion in last year's round of grants, but only had enough funding to award $1.2 billion to just 9 projects.

Last year, Massachusetts submitted five applications for these grant programs, and did not receive funding for any.

For 2023, MassDOT and the MBTA are trying again, albeit with fewer grant applications and more modest funding requests:

  • MassDOT is again seeking funds for its proposed Cape Cod Bridge program, which proposes a multi-billion-dollar suite of highway expansions in the vicinity of the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne and Sandwich, in addition to the replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore highway bridges over the Cape Cod Canal. Last year, MassDOT requested $1.1 billion through these discretionary programs; this year, the Healey administration is scaling back its ambitions to apply for funding only for the Sagamore Bridge replacement, "while laying the groundwork" for the future replacement of the Bourne Bridge.
  • MassDOT and the City of Boston are also submitting a scaled-back application for funding the Allston Multimodal Project in Boston. Last year, MassDOT requested $1.2 billion in federal funds, but this year's application only requests $200 million.
  • The MBTA is seeking $672 million for a project that would replace and expand the Draw 1 drawbridge over the Charles River at the entrance to North Station. Where the current bridge has four track, the proposed new drawbridge will have six tracks, and enable the use of additional boarding platforms at North Station. Last year, the T sought $338 million in federal funding for this project.
  • MassDOT is also applying for a smaller $44 million grant to rebuild Route 9 in Williamsburg through the Rural Surface Transportation Grant program.

These projects will compete with dozens of others from around the country for about $5.6 billion in this year's budget for these grant programs.

StreetsblogMASS has requested copies of the state's grant application materials, which typically offer more detail about the state's plans. We plan to follow up with more details when we receive those documents.

Read our previous coverage on MassDOT's 2022 grant applications:

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