Let's Keep Thriving Communities Thriving

USDOT's Thriving Communities Program continues to provide critical tools and resources to communities across the country, and yet its funding is in jeopardy.

On April 15, 2024, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced $23.6 million for the second round of funding for the Thriving Communities Program (TCP), which provides disadvantaged communities with the technical tools and capacity to compete for federal aid and deliver quality infrastructure projects. Funding is allocated in cooperative agreements with three National Capacity Builders and six Regional Capacity Builders that will support 112 communities, bringing the number of communities supported to 176 across the two program years. 

As it was in its first year, support is geographically broad encompassing cities, suburbs, small towns, and Tribal areas across the country. This planning, technical assistance, and capacity building support will enable disadvantaged and under-resourced communities to advance a pipeline of transformative infrastructure projects that will increase mobility, reduce pollution, and expand affordable transportation options, connecting communities to the essential opportunities and resources that will help them thrive.

What Makes Thriving Communities Special

While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act have provided record sums of funding for infrastructure, far too many communities are overwhelmed by complicated application processes and are too under-staffed to effectively take advantage of these resources. Urban, rural, and Tribal communities that have suffered historic disinvestment often lack the resources and capacity to successfully engage, develop, design, and deliver infrastructure projects. By working closely with local communities and responding to their unique needs and circumstances, TCP can target support to navigate federal requirements, identify funding and financing opportunities, and grow long-term capacity to leverage transportation investments to achieve broader economic and community development goals. For instance, below are some examples of communities from TCP’s first year:

  • The Shoalwater Bay Tribe located in Washington State has been forced to relocate due to flooding, erosion, and a severe housing shortage. Land available for development is limited, but Tribal lands have been secured further inland on mountainous terrain and significant infrastructure development is needed to support relocation. In 2023, Shoalwater Bay was awarded a $6 million Indian Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build the first set of homes, and USDOT awarded the tribe a $24 million RAISE grant for the construction of the road upland. The TCP Capacity Builder Team is focused on development of a Master Plan to align the various grants and technical assistance that the Tribe has already received. TCP will play a key role in bringing together federal agency partners to continue interagency coordination efforts and to leverage additional support and resources for Shoalwater Bay. 


View of the Shoalwater Bay Tokeland Community. 



  • Southwest Detroit, a majority Latino community, is the location of the Livernois Intermodal Freight Terminal (shared by CSX, NS, and Conrail railroads), the Port of Detroit, and the Detroit Truck Ferry. Frequent truck traffic causes negative health and safety impacts ranging from increased exposure to accidents, higher air pollution, noise, foundation-damaging vibration, and deteriorated right-of-way infrastructure not designed for heavy vehicles. The TCP is providing technical support for transportation planning to improve efficiency and mitigate community impact of rail and freight movement in Southwest Detroit by assisting the city in developing a vision and comprehensive plan. The TCP technical support will also facilitate collaboration between stakeholders, including the community-based organizations, local authorities, and relevant state agencies to ensure a cohesive and coordinated approach to infrastructure development.

Truck traffic on Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit. Image source: Google Earth Street View.


 Image source: Google Earth Street View.


  • The City of York is a majority African American community in west central Alabama with approximately 2,500 residents, situated within Sumter County and within the traditional homeland of the Choctaw Nation and the Black Belt of Alabama. Broad Street, which runs through the downtown, sees about 1,700 vehicles daily including lumber, timber, and large industry trucks oftentimes causing damage to the street signage, lighting, and street surfaces. The City’s goal is to create an attractive, welcoming pedestrian environment on Broad Street, including new lighting and landscaping, and to reduce railroad crossing barriers and improve safety for all road users. The Thriving Communities Program Capacity Builder team supporting York is facilitating a community-driven strategy for downtown redevelopment that incorporates current projects and future initiatives to align these efforts with mobility and safety improvements. With the help of Thriving Communities, the Federal Railroad Administration has provided railroad planning technical assistance to help York prepare for upcoming discretionary grant opportunities. 


Tour of York with Mayor Lake, federal partners, and Thriving Communities Program Capacity Builders. 


Photo credit: USDOT.

Let's Restore Funding for TCP

Even with that record of success, and with an unfunded runner up list of 143 communities in this latest round, Congress eliminated funding for TCP in the FY 2024 appropriations bill that was finalized in March this year. TCP was already stretched too thin with $25 million in both FY22 and FY23. Unfortunately, the budgetary limitations enforced by the Fiscal Responsibility Act mean that many programs may ultimately be funded at levels insufficient to fully realize their benefits. While we are disappointed by these limitations, we appreciate any efforts by the Appropriations Committee to maintain the foundation of support for these programs need to operate effectively in FY 2025. NRDC seeks to correct this mistake in the upcoming FY25 appropriations bill and is asking Congress to fund it at $75 million.

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