Possible grant opportunity available for road commission through infrastructure bill

CENTREVILLE — The St. Joseph County Road Commission may be able to get funds through the federal infrastructure bill if an application from them gets approved.

The road commission board approved a resolution at their May 4 meeting to apply for a grant through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), where is there is $300 million available nationwide for communities with less than 200,000 people to fund certain “shovel-ready” road projects. Grants from the infrastructure bill require a 20 percent match, which Road Commission Manager John Lindsey was not a fan of doing without the board’s approval.

Lindsey said he hopes to get funding from the IIJA to pay for a project to repair the Farrand Road bridge near Colon, a project expected to be around $6 million with the agency covering $1.2 million of it if they get the grant funds.

“This resolution would say, hey, if they give us the grant, we would agree to pay our 20 percent,” Lindsey said.

Construction on the bridge, if things go well, is expected to begin in two to three years. If the agency gets the grant, Lindsey said they would know later this year.

Lindsey said the road commission has attempted to fund the bridge project through the state’s local bridge fund – which goes up to 95 percent funding for projects with a 5 percent match – four times in total, but have been unsuccessful thus far, even after offering a 10 percent match to try to boost their chances of getting selected.

Road Commission Engineer Garrett Myland, who first brought up applying for the federal grant to Lindsey, said the local bridge program rarely gives out that kind of money, making funding through that program “almost an impossibility.”

“It would have to go through two different boards, and both boards would have to essentially give the max amount. So having both give the max amount is not very likely,” Myland said.

However, unlike the local bridge program, Myland said the grant through the IIJA can cover engineering and design costs as long as it’s included in the application. The local bridge program currently leaves design and engineering costs to the road commissions. Myland said the federal grant could still be a difficult get nonetheless.

“I want to preface that this grant is going to be very difficult because it’s $300 million for the entire United States, and anybody can apply. States can apply for rural areas. Counties, cities and villages, multiple states can come together and do applications, and it’s actually straight from the Federal Highway Administration, and it is not through MDOT as well,” Myland said. “I’m taking the time to do it because I think it’s worthwhile. With the feds giving out money, it would be more likely they would give a large sum of money, like $4.8 million, than local bridge giving $4.8 million. The problem is just the competition.”

Lindsey said if the road commission does get the grant, they would be prepared to afford their match.

“We’ve been planning for at least $600,000 to this every time, and then upwards of thinking toward $1.2 million,” Lindsey said. “We are prepared.”

Board member Rodney Chupp said while it’s a longshot, if they do get the money, they will have a “good problem” trying to come up with the money to fund their share, and “can’t keep kicking bridges down the road.”

“I think we have to apply, and if we get it, we’ll figure something out. I think we’ve got to fight for every one of these possibilities we can get,” Chupp said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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