In 2017, CMAP began a three-year effort to integrate a similar equitable approach by reforming how we distribute federal transportation dollars. CMAP, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Chicago, and suburban municipalities ultimately established a separate funding pool, called the Surface Transportation Program Shared Fund, to implement larger-scale, regionally significant infrastructure projects that, otherwise, wouldn’t have been funded under the previous formula.
Through the new approach, CMAP scores proposed projects on the degree to which they benefit low-income and minority populations, in addition to scoring other transportation criteria like pavement condition. After applying the new scoring system, CMAP programmed 17 projects over five years with $31 million going to communities with the highest need. Three projects in Dolton, Lynwood, and North Aurora alone, totaling $18 million, likely wouldn’t have been included in the STP Shared program under our old evaluation.
CMAP and IDOT also have worked together to establish a policy that uses the Community Cohorts to provide communities with relief from paying matching funds for transportation grants. Normally, federal funding can cover up to 80% of the cost of the project, requiring communities to pay at least 20%. But communities categorized in the highest-need cohort are eligible to use 100% of federal funding on their projects. High-need communities also are able to use 100% of federal funds to cover preliminary engineering costs, under a similar evaluation CMAP uses.
With CMAP’s Local Technical Assistance program, communities contribute local matching funds on a sliding scale based on our Community Cohorts designations, allowing higher need communities to pay a smaller match. Since the program’s creation, CMAP has funded over 200 local planning projects, helping to build capacity, engage marginalized groups, and make critical decisions. The program also empowers local governments to solve difficult community challenges, and connects local partners to implementing agencies and capital funding for infrastructure investments.
CMAP’s development of our Community Cohorts evaluation tool serves as a blueprint for how governments and organizations can support municipalities with the greatest needs. Like Cook County and its coronavirus relief funding, communities in the region can work with CMAP to use our data and tailor our tools to ensure equitable decision-making.