U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Key Resource for Rural Communities
Monday, July 27, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the Applicant Toolkit (Toolkit) for the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) Initiative at the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is the latest effort by the Department and the Trump Administration to improve rural access to federal grant funds. The Toolkit provides user-friendly information and resources to enhance rural applicants’ familiarity with the Department’s discretionary grant programs and the funding process.

“The ROUTES Applicant Toolkit will help rural communities better identify and navigate grant funding opportunities for rural transportation projects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Rural communities and their transportation networks have been instrumental in building and supplying urban areas throughout our nation’s history, carrying people from city to city and carrying freight from bedrock American industries such as agriculture, mining, forestry, and manufacturing. Yet rural transportation infrastructure has significant challenges.

While one-fifth of Americans live in rural areas, 70% of America’s road miles are in rural areas, carrying nearly 50% of the nation’s truck traffic. In addition, 44% of automobile travel on rural roads is done by metropolitan area citizens, and rural America’s traffic fatalities are disproportionately high, with a fatality rate twice that of urban areas. Further, of the nation’s bridges that are posted for weight limits, 90% are in rural areas.

Discretionary grant applications can be complex and resource-intensive to complete. Many of the Department’s discretionary grant programs require non-federal funding to cover a portion of project costs, which may present an additional barrier to rural communities with limited funding.

The new ROUTES Toolkit addresses these challenges by assisting rural stakeholders to better understand how to access the Department’s grants and financing products. Specifically, the Toolkit illustrates key applicant requirements when participating in the Department’s discretionary grants processes. It also catalogues discretionary grant programs by applicant type and eligible project activities. Additionally, the Toolkit provides resources for applicants to maximize the potential for award success.

Secretary Chao announced the ROUTES Initiative at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in St. Louis, Missouri last October. The initiative is led by the ROUTES Council, an internal deliberative body at DOT, which identifies critical rural transportation concerns and coordinate efforts among the Department’s operating administrations.

To learn more about the ROUTES Initiative and the Toolkit, visit www.transportation.gov/rural.

Secretary Chao’s remarks can be viewed HERE