When it comes to infrastructure improvements in the community, the price tag can deter decisionmakers from considering bigger projects. With municipal budgets already stretched thin, there may not be enough to get the job done. State and federal funding can help fill the gaps. Requests for proposals (RFPs) can be competitive, but with the right planning and tools, your project can compete among the best of them.
Step 1: Identify your project.
Before you start searching for grants, the first step is to clarify exactly what traffic safety need you’re trying to fund. Is it a traffic calming project with radar speed signs and 24-hour flashing beacons, or a Safe Routes to School walkability project that needs crosswalk beacons and school zone beacons? Consider how the community will benefit from the traffic safety improvement—as well as what negative impacts will result if this project isn’t completed. (You will probably be asked about this in your application.) Determine the project component costs and budget required before you get started on Step 2.
Step 2: Explore funding opportunities.
There is a huge assortment of funding available for any number of project types, which can be overwhelming to sift through. Your best place to start is Grants.gov. Not only is this a comprehensive database of federal grant opportunities, but it also includes a Grant Learning Center for those new to grant applications. Review all posted Department of Transportation grants, or check out their Community Blog for other ideas on getting started.
To get more specific, try the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which funds sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails, and Safe Routes to School projects. Funding and eligibility vary by state; all states have a Transportation Alternatives Program coordinator, who can help you with state-specific questions.
Step 3: Determine what documents and data you need to apply.
Now that you’ve selected a grant, reviewed its criteria, and determined your project is eligible, take the time to read the request for proposals carefully.
- Look for what is required versus recommended to help you prioritize all requirements in order of importance.
- See if the grant includes sponsored workshops or written guides to help you with the application process. These can be invaluable for keeping your application on track to meet the deadlines.
- Inform local stakeholders that you are applying for the grant to see if they will provide a letter of support or pledge for assistance that you can include in the application. Your application could be stronger with proof that the whole community will benefit from the funding.
Step 4: Apply!
It’s time to apply. With your application deadline always top of mind, take the time to assemble all the information you have gathered. Be sure to check for formatting requirements, including fonts and headings.
Hot tip: Find your best writer or hire someone who specializes in grant writing for the narrative portion of your application. Taking your data and turning it into an engaging story with relevant anecdotes will be an effective way to draw attention to your project’s need for funding.
Ensure that several readers review your application, including those familiar with the project and those that aren’t. Sometimes you are too close to a project to see what’s missing or unclear. A grant writer may be a valuable resource for this step, too.
Submit your application by the deadline and take time to relax.
Step 5: Wait.
The waiting is the hardest part—and it may take from a few weeks to several months to hear back.
- If it’s accepted: Get geared up for Step 6!
- If it’s turned down: Ask for feedback right away—you may get a chance to resubmit your application that year, or to come back with more information to support your case next year.
Step 6: Use funds appropriately.
Now that you have the funds you need, maintain your focus and follow through with the deliverables you listed. The grant maker may have specific post-award management instructions to follow, including providing Before and After data to back up the results your application indicated would occur.
Be sure to keep your receipts and reports organized for auditing purposes.
Step 7: Start preparing for next year.
Ensure you complete the post-award process for the grant you received and tie up all loose ends. You may not be allowed to apply again if you don’t comply with this process.
Tip: Applying for the same grant next year? You’ll be able to repurpose a lot of the information—which is another reason you’ll want to ensure your records are clean and organized. Keep all the data even if you won’t be applying for the same funding again. You never know when it might come in handy for a future project.
We’ve highlighted 5 transportation grants to check out for your project.
Looking for another funding source besides federal and state grants? Here are some ideas to get started.
Explore our Traffic Safety Grants and Funding page.