Updated: December 14, 2023

Most of our construction projects rely, in part, on grant funding. Grants are additional funds that we seek for our transportation projects and programs. These grants are offered by various types of agencies (grantors), primarily the federal and state governments, as well as foundations, non-profit agencies, and similar groups.

Obtaining grants is a competitive process. We must request grants and demonstrate that our projects align well with the grantor's mission. This involves matching projects with the scoring criteria established by each grant program. For instance, an air quality grant typically supports transit projects that encourage mode shifts from driving alone or funds electric vehicle chargers to reduce emissions. A safety-focused grant might finance new sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, or street lighting.

What are the benefits of grants?

  • Help your tax dollars go further: Grants make our local tax dollars stretch further. Grants help reduce how much local taxpayers have to spend for transportation projects and programs.  
    • Example: If a project costs $80 million, we could fund that project with $80 million in taxpayer money (such as a combination of property taxes and vehicle license fees). Or, we could apply for a $30 million grant. If we receive that grant, we would only have to use $50 million from our own revenues to fund the project.  
    • Example: The Levy to Move Seattle will collect approximately $930 million of taxpayer dollars from 2016-2024. However, we expect to have leveraged more than $400 million in grant funding to support Levy-funded projects and programs.  
  • Fund a significant proportion of the transportation system:  In many cities, including Seattle, grants make up around 10% of the overall transportation budget. 
  • Make projects and programs happen: Transportation grants can speed up projects and programs, fill funding gaps for specific projects, and ensure that the best solutions are delivered at the right time.  

How do we obtain grant funding? 

  • Identify funding sources: We pursue grant funding from a wide variety of sources, including USDOT, WSDOT, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), and the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). These are just some of the sources and there are many more.
  • Use teamwork: Our Grants team works closely with each of SDOT’s divisions to identify candidate projects that would be good candidates for grants.
  • Develop an application: We prioritize those project candidates for the upcoming grant programs and submit competitive applications so that we can win the grant. 

What projects get grant funding? 

With the wide array of grant competitions available each year, SDOT tends to secure grants for nearly all our programs. This includes bus, streetcar, bike, and pedestrian facilities, as well as traffic signal upgrades, bridge repairs, paving, and carbon reduction initiatives.

  • Each grantor has a distinct focus, so we are careful to select projects that align with their unique perspectives. For instance, we would choose different projects for a transit-related grant compared to a freight-related or safety-related grant.

  • Even within broad categories, each grantor employs different criteria to evaluate applications from various regions, states, or countries. A transit-related grant might prioritize new services, while another may focus on enhancing pedestrian access to bus stops or supporting planned growth in specific communities.

  • Certain grantors may limit funding to projects in earlier planning or design stages, while others emphasize "shovel-ready" projects that are ready for construction.

What are some grants we have recently applied for or received?