The new grant money will help build a pedestrian bridge over the Ala Wai Canal and make road improvements on Maui.

WASHINGTON — The influx of federal money to Hawaii continues as President Joe Biden continues his “Invest in America” tour while Congress is in recess for the Fourth of July holiday.

On Wednesday, top officials in the Biden administration, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, announced more than $2.2 billion in federal grants for 162 projects across the country, including two in Hawaii.

The City and County of Honolulu will receive $25 million to help build a pedestrian bridge over the Ala Wai Canal while Maui County receives its own $25 million grant for the extension of Liloa Road in Kihei, which includes the construction of new sidewalks, roundabouts and a bridge crossing.

The federal government will help pay for a new pedestrian bridge over the Ala Wai Canal. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

During a call with reporters, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu and Buttigieg highlighted that the funds will be split 50-50 between urban and rural communities.

They also said a large share of the funding — about 70% of all grants — would be targeted in communities that are “historically disadvantaged” or in “areas of persistent poverty.”

“The president is committed to leaving no community behind as we do this,” Landrieu said.

The money comes from a U.S. Department of Transportation discretionary grant program launched in 2009 by President Barack Obama known as TIGER. The program now operates under a new acronym, RAISE, that stands for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity.

Funding for the program was expanded under the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal that Congress passed in 2021 and has since become a cornerstone of Biden’s domestic policy agenda as well as his 2024 campaign.

Wednesday’s announcement comes just two days after the White House announced $149 million to expand high-speed internet access in Hawaii.

Buttigieg said RAISE grants are among the most popular funding programs in his department in large part because they focus on each individual community’s needs rather than some decree from above.

“We don’t design the projects at headquarters,” he said. “We are proceeding very much on the idea that the answers don’t all come from Washington, but that the funding should.”

Buttigieg noted that the agency received applications for $15 billion worth of projects even though there was only $2.2 billion available. He said DOT officials would be working with unsuccessful applicants to see if they could get funding in future years.

Hawaii also received nearly $50 million in RAISE grants during the fiscal year 2022 funding cycle, including for improvements to Poipu Road on Kauai and an extension of Waiale Road on Maui.

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