2021 Infrastructure Law

What's in it, how to use it

Understanding the 2021 infrastructure law

promo graphic for a guide to the IIJAThe $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed in November 2021, now governs all federal transportation policy and funding through 2026. (You’ll frequently hear “infrastructure law” or “bipartisan infrastructure deal” as shorthand for the IIJA.) This mammoth bill was the final product of congressional negotiations in 2020 and 2021 over long-term transportation proposals, as well as a standalone infrastructure bill. The final product turned out to be an amalgamation of both.

T4America has produced a wealth of content about the infrastructure law, but we know that federal transportation policy can be intimidating and confusing. So start where you feel most comfortable.

Choose your starting point:

Start me with the basics Toss me in the deep end

I’m new to the IIJA—catch me up

T4America covered every step of the process that led to this law, from the very first long-term transportation proposals in 2019, all the way to the final product in November 2021. These five posts are our most succinct look at the final product, the IIJA.

  1. What did we think of it? Read our November 2021 statement on the law’s passage.
  2. Summarize the law in a few bullet points. Here are five specific things you should know about the law.
  3. How much money, and for what? This broad financial breakdown shows where the money is going.
  4. Flaws aside, what’s worth celebrating? There is still potential in the bill worth noting.
  5. The bill can still be improved through implementation by the administration. And lastly, Biden’s USDOT can improve the bill’s outcomes with administrative actions.

Money: how much, how much more, and for what?

About 54 percent ($643 billion) of the law’s $1.2 trillion total goes toward surface transportation, into a massive five-year authorization (through 2026) of federal transportation law that’s nearly twice the size of the FAST Act that it replaces. The rest goes toward other non-surface transportation infrastructure needs. Two-thirds ($432 billion) of that $643 billion is flowing to conventional highway programs. And when compared to the previous five-year law, the new infrastructure bill increases highway program funding by 90 percent, transit funding by 79 percent, and rail infrastructure funding by 750 percent.

Go deeper: The law’s policy and funding by topic:

Each of these longer topical explainer posts explore a core issue area and unpack the funding and policy that will impact each one. They include recommendations for how the administration can improve the law in implementation, guidance for how advocates can use the new funding, and a brief roadmap of the funding opportunities by program.

Competitive grant programs

The infrastructure law both made enormous changes to competitive grant programs and provided billions of dollars for them.

More than $200 billion of the $643 billion stays with USDOT to be awarded via competitive grants to states, metro areas, and tribal governments—through dozens of newly created, updated, and existing competitive grant programs.

  • Get started: Read our high-level overview of how much competitive funding there is, why it matters that USDOT has some control over which projects get funding, and a few notable programs to pay attention to for various reasons—good and bad alike.
  • Positioning for grant success: Thinking about applying for competitive funding? Read our three key strategies to prepare a successful application.
  • Members-only guide to grant programs by eligibility and use: T4A members can use this guide to locate the federal grants available for their projects and make a case for funding.

Other helpful resources

Many others have created resources to help states, metros, and advocates figure out how to use the IIJA funding. This area includes a curated set of resources that are worth your time to explore.