AASHTO Journal, 7 August 2015
The South Dakota Transportation Commission has scheduled an Aug. 27 hearing to adopt rules that will govern a new $15 million annual grant fund to target local roadway bridge needs, with the grant request handled through the state Department of Transportation.
That Bridge Improvement Grant fund was included in a wide-ranging transportation funding law the Legislature passed this year, which raised motor fuel user taxes and various fees to generate an estimated $86 million a year for state and local road improvements.
The law gives the Transportation Commission authority to set rules on the grant application process, timelines, criteria it will use to distribute money from that new “BIG” fund.
At the hearing, the commission will review draft rules that state officials have drawn up for how the grant fund would operate, and for five-year county highway and bridge improvement plans that local authorities must first submit to the SDDOT.
Those draft rules and a guide to the county planning documents are at the SDDOT website.
They show that SDDOT recommendations and project scoring will play a key role in allocating the grants.
“When considering an application, the commission shall receive a recommendation from the department based on an engineering analysis,” the rules say.
For minor projects, “the commission may use the department’s recommendation as the sole criteria for award,” but major bridge projects will be evaluated with an SDDOT-developed “objective scoring procedure” that accounts for bridge condition, user impact and local participation.
Counties will not have much time to prepare their initial plans and send grant requests to the department. Under the draft rules, first-year grant applications are to be submitted by Jan. 31, 2016. For subsequent years after the grant fund is launched, the annual county grant requests would be due in by Jan. 2.
The plan is to have the commission decide on grant requests within four months, which would put the money into county hands in that year’s construction season.