The Municipal Small Bridge Program is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The program first was created through the 2016 Transportation Bond Bill. After five successful years of program operation, all of the originally authorized funds were awarded. In order to continue the Commonwealth's commitment to local infrastructure, the program was reauthorized in the 2021 Transportation Bond Bill.
The program provides funding to municipalities for the replacement, preservation, and rehabilitation of eligible bridges. To be considered for funding, bridges must be on a local public way and must be on the State Bridge Inventory with a recorded span between 10 and 20 feet. These small bridges are not eligible for federal aid under existing bridge programs. More information on eligibility can be found at Project Eligibility.
New in 2022, the program utilizes phased grants to municipalities in order to separately fund the design and construction of bridge projects. A Phase 1 grant is designated for the costs of bridge design and permitting and may provide up to $100,000. Meanwhile, a Phase 2 grant provides funding for the costs of construction up to $500,000. These phased grants are intended to ensure that funds are spent efficiently between design and construction tasks.
Applications are currently accepted once per fiscal year for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 grants. A municipality may submit applications for multiple small bridges for either grant phase (design or construction) during a single application round. However, in order to apply for a Phase 2 construction grant, a municipality must demonstrate a final design completed by a MassDOT prequalified engineering firm (through a Phase 1 grant or other funding source) and undergo a successful Chapter 85 review.
Only municipal officials may apply for funding. The application document is a fillable PDF that is completed and submitted via email to MassDOT along with any required supporting materials. Learn more about the application process at How to Apply. Project locations are proposed by municipalities and considered by MassDOT for funding through a competitive selection process.
Selection is based on need and merit. The designs of small bridges awarded a Phase 1 grant are supported by a MassDOT-led consultant team while construction projects awarded through a Phase 2 grant are managed by the municipality. New in 2022, MassDOT now provides Phase 1 (design grant) awardees with direct MassDOT-led consultant support for the design of bridge improvements. Learn more about Project Implementation.
This program is 100% state funded. When a municipality utilizes MassDOT-led consultant support for a Phase 1 grant, no funds are provided directly to a municipality. Phase 2 construction grants are reimbursement-based, meaning municipalities are reimbursed for approved expenses after costs are incurred. MassDOT and a selected municipality will enter into an agreement for approved projects.
Fiscal Year 2023 Program Deadlines
|Application Round Opens||Application Round Closes||Application Review & Award Notification|
|February 1, 2022||April 1, 2022||2 – 3 months|
Who can apply?
- Only municipalities are eligible and only municipal staff/officials may submit applications.
How do I know if a bridge is eligible?
Bridges must be on a local public way and must be on the State Bridge Inventory with a span between 10 and 20 feet. The municipality is also required to demonstrate a fiscal need for the grant.
For bridge replacement projects, the bridge must be structurally deficient (if known) or load posted. For preservation projects, the activities must aim to extend the useful service life of the bridge by at least twenty years for the elements of the bridge being preserved.
What are Phased Grants?
- MassDOT has implemented Phased Grants for the Municipal Small Bridge Program in order to differentiate awards made for the design and the construction of bridge projects. Phase 1 grants are for the design of bridge projects and provide up to $100,000 in funding. Phase 2 grants are for the construction of bridge projects and provide up to $500,000 in funding.
Can a municipality apply for a Phase 1 and Phase 2 grant at the same time for the same bridge?
No. The Phased Grants are intended to ensure that funds are spent efficiently between design and construction tasks. Completion of Phase 1 work ensures that Phase 2 funds are only allocated towards projects that are ready for implementation. However, a municipality may submit a Phase 1 and Phase 2 grant at the same time for different bridges, assuming they are each eligible.
In order to be eligible for a Phase 2 grant, a municipality must demonstrate a final design completed by a consultant prequalified by the MassDOT Architects and Engineers Review Board in Basic Bridge Design/Rating (through a Phase 1 grant or other funding source) and undergo a successful Chapter 85 review.
If my municipality already has a completed design for a bridge, can we apply directly for a Phase 2 grant?
- Yes, if the design was completed by a consultant prequalified by the MassDOT Architects and Engineers Review Board in Basic Bridge Design/Rating and the design has undergone a successful Chapter 85 review.
What are the funding limits?
- Phase 1 grants, awarded for the design of small bridge projects, are limited to $100,000. Phase 2 grants, for the construction of bridge projects, are limited to $500,000. A municipality may receive one award per grant phase per fiscal year.
When is the application deadline?
- The Fiscal Year 2023 application deadline is April 1, 2022.
How does a community apply?
- Application documents are submitted directly to the program mailbox: SmallBridgeProgram@dot.state.ma.us. The application and instructions can be found at How to Apply.
How are projects implemented?
- Once a Phase 1 design grant is awarded, design may begin through the selected MassDOT consultant. MassDOT will assign the municipality to a pre-selected design consultant. A municipality may also hire a design consultant themselves in some cases. For a Phase 2 grant, the municipality may begin construction implementation and request reimbursement for costs as they are incurred up to the grant limit. Both grant phases require a municipality to enter into an agreement with MassDOT before work is conducted. See Project Implementation page for details.
Can I choose which design consultant MassDOT assigns for a Phase 1 grant?
- While MassDOT will attempt to honor any local preferences for a design consultant, assignments are made at MassDOT discretion according to workload and availability.
My municipality prefers to complete the design of our awarded small bridge through our own consultant. Is that allowed?
- On a case-by-case basis a municipality may opt out of the MassDOT-led consultant support for the design of an awarded small bridge. The municipality must demonstrate to MassDOT the need and ability to complete the design in a timely manner. Any costs above the $100,000 award limit are the responsibility of the municipality.
How does an awarded municipality receive their funding?
- Phase 1 design awardees that utilize a MassDOT consultant are not provided funds directly; MassDOT handles payments to the consultant using the grant funds on behalf of the municipality. For Phase 2 construction awards, grant funds are reimbursement-based. Reimbursement of approved costs is requested through a municipality’s MassDOT District State Aid Engineer similar to the Chapter 90 Program. Find the Requirement Request Form, as well as necessary contact information.