By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Transportation announced recently that local governments and planning commissions may begin applying for up to $2 million in grant funding to improve transportation in their communities.
The Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, or ITEP, is in its 14th cycle of funding. There is $105.6 million available through the program this year as part of the $33.2 billion in transportation construction funded in the Rebuild Illinois capital plan.
Local governments, regional transportation authorities, natural resource agencies, school districts, tribal governments and nonprofit entities responsible for transport oversight are all eligible for ITEP funds. Private entities and nonprofit entities without oversight powers can still apply if sponsored by an organization that is eligible.
The program aims to fund projects that enhance transportation and encourage safe travel for communities, such as those that involve bike and pedestrian facilities.
IDOT began accepting applications for ITEP on Aug. 21, and the deadline for applications to be received is Nov. 2. Applications must be submitted online, along with other hardcopy requirements, at idot.illinois.gov.
For the first time this year, ITEP has set aside funds specifically for underserved communities, according to an IDOT news release.
About $26.4 million, or 25 percent of ITEP’s available funds, has been earmarked for projects in “high-need communities,” communities identified as disadvantaged or economically distressed. Factor used to identify “high-need” areas include community median income and total property tax base.
“Part of our core mission at IDOT is empowering disadvantaged communities and working with local decision makers to improve transportation options and quality of life,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a news release. “Under Gov. (JB) Pritzker, we have made major improvements to the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program that will mean greater participation and more resources where they are needed most.”
Eligible projects for ITEP funding must fall under one of nine categories: pedestrian and bicycle facilities; beautification of streetscapes; converting abandoned railroads into trails; preserving and rehabilitating historic transportation buildings; vegetation management on roads; archaeological activity impacted by other transport projects; storm water and pollution management; reducing roadkill and connecting animal habitats near roads; and constructing turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas for residents.
IDOT will score the applications based on the merits of the proposed project, including factors such as public benefit, relevance to the program’s requirements, local commitment to the project and others.
To assist applicants, IDOT set up a series of webinars for interested parties to learn how to apply for ITEP funds. A webinar focusing on how applications will be scored and an ITEP Q and A for projects will take place on Oct. 21.
(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)