Interested in using federal infrastructure funds for a cool active transportation project? You’re in luck, because the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Innovative Mobility Program (IMP) is now accepting grant applications, and organizations across the state can get up to $5,000 for project ideas that align with the IMP’s goals.
The IMP is a new statewide initiative funded by the President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that “aims to improve access to public transportation, reduce the number of trips Oregonians make by car, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Applicants can include local governments, public transportation providers, Tribes and certified nonprofits who can demonstrate their project idea will “support historically excluded groups and increases social equity.”
“The IMP has a special focus on equity and helping historically excluded groups to get to where they need to go more quickly, cheaply and safely,” ODOT states.
ODOT says these IMP grants could fund projects like bike/scooter lending libraries and share programs, community events like Sunday Parkways, safety education and awareness programs and more.
The IMP is the last big contribution to Oregon’s transportation department from outgoing transportation commissioner Alando Simpson, who came up with the idea for the program when the OTC was deciding how to divvy up IIJA money. Simpson was able to negotiate $10 million in federal funds for the IMP, and thanks to state contributions, they’ll have $20 million for the program for 2022-2025.
Transportation and climate advocates wanted to use the rare influx of flexible funding the IIJA offered to fund programs that would reduce Oregonians’ reliance on fossil fuels. Policymakers and activists pushed the OTC to avoid using IIJA funds for freeway expansion projects or other car-oriented projects. But ultimately the Commission allocated about an eighth ($50 million) of the flexible federal money to “complete a number of highway and interchange improvements to streamline the movement of goods,” a.k.a. freeway expansions, which Simpson was supportive of.
“I just need to come up with something more creative and trigger a new market opportunity for us to get into cleaner forms of transportation,” he said at a meeting back in March. “Like alternative forms of transportation that can address our climate and social challenges.”
The existence of this program shows how important just one member of the OTC can be in shaping Oregon’s transportation system, and why there’s so much attention on Governor Kate Brown’s most recent pick.
There’s no deadline for the applications, as grants will be awarded on a rolling basis over the next three years. You can find the application and more information on the IMP program website.