Funding Sources

The following are sources of federal funding used for transportation projects in the Knoxville region.

Note: if a project is considered “ ,” then it must be listed in the Mobility Plan and Transportation Improvement Program even if it is being funded solely with local funds.

TPO grants

While  the TPO is responsible for approving the selection of all transportation projects funded with federal assistance, regardless of the grant program, the agency has direct selection authority for only a handful of programs. The following is a list of funding programs for which the TPO selects projects.

There is not currently a call for projects open.

View active calls for projects

Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (Local)

The Local Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) provides flexible funding that may be used for projects to preserve and improve the conditions and performance on a Federal-aid roadway*. Surface Transportation Program (Urban) funds (STP-U) are provided to the MPO based on a population-based formula set by the Federal Government in the Transportation Bill.  Funding is also eligible for some types of projects regardless of functional classification including bridge and tunnel projects, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and transit capital projects. The Federal share for most projects is 80 percent, requiring a 20% local match. Certain projects – including traffic signals, pavement markings, rumble strips, and carpooling/vanpooling – are allowed to receive 100% federal funding, with no local match required.

*Federal-aid roadways are those classified as a “collector” or higher (except for rural minor collectors) according to the current functional classification system maintained by TDOT.

Transit Grant Section 5310

The TPO distributes the Knoxville Urban Area Section 5310 formula funding via a grant program. Eligible recipients include private non-profits, human resource agencies, and public transit providers. The TPO holds an annual call-for-projects. Projects submitted must also be in keeping with the goals and objectives of the Knoxville Regional  Human Services Transportation Coordination Plan. Grant recipients are under contract with the TPO and must follow strict federal and state regulations. A listing of agencies that have received 5310 funds in the past year is available below.

Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives (TA) provides funding for programs and projects including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, access improvements to public transportation, and safe routes to school projects. TA funds are divided into a statewide pool (to be administered by a state’s department of transportation) and into urbanized-area pools to be administered by the corresponding MPO.

Transportation Planning

The TPO receives funding annually to carry out its federally-mandated metropolitan planning requirements. Each year, the TPO solicits ideas from the community and local governments for how best to direct those funds into planning activities. In general, planning funds are derived from three federal grant programs:

  • Planning  Funds (also known as “PL”) – PL funds are grant funds set aside by Congress to conduct required metropolitan planning. The funds require a 20% match, which are typically provided by local governments.
  • Research Funds (SPR) – SPR funds are set aside by Congress to support transportation planning in non-MPO or rural portions of states. In Tennessee, these funds are administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. When appropriate, TDOT shares SPR funds with MPOs to help plan for the non-urbanized portion of an MPO’s planning area or to perform specific studies that have statewide significance on behalf of TDOT. A 20% match is required and can be provided by either TDOT or local jurisdictions.
  • Transit Planning (FTA Section 5303) – Section 5303 funds are designated for transit planning and research activities in MPO areas. Up to 80% of the funds used for a project can be federal. The remaining 20% match is typically divided between state and local government, with each contributing 10%.

TDOT grants

For an overview of all funding categories, see TDOT’s website. Jurisdictions can apply for funding from TDOT for these two grants:

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ)

The CMAQ program provides dedicated federal funding to state Departments of Transportation for projects that improve air quality and reduce congestion. The CMAQ program improves air quality by funding transportation projects and programs that reduce air emissions from cars, trucks, and buses (mobile sources) in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas, which are the only areas eligible for CMAQ funding.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) conducts a competitive CMAQ funding application process to select projects in CMAQ-eligible counties statewide. Several counties in the Knoxville Region are eligible for CMAQ funds including: Anderson, Blount, Cocke, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane and Sevier.

More info on CMAQ

Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives (TA) provides funding for programs and projects including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, access improvements to public transportation, and safe routes to school projects. TA funds are divided into a statewide pool (to be administered by a state’s department of transportation) and into urbanized-area pools to be administered by the corresponding MPO.

TDOT has an annual call for projects for state TA funds. All local governmental agencies, including those within the Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville MPOs/TPOs, may submit an application to the State’s competitive program.

Transit Grants

Urbanized Areas Formula Program (Section 5307)

This program makes Federal resources available to urbanized areas for transit capital, operating assistance, and planning. Funding is made available to Designated Recipients, which must be public agencies with the legal authority to receive and dispense Federal funds. The City of Knoxville is the Designated Recipient of the Knoxville urban area Section 5307 funding. The City of Knoxville shares funding with Knox County CAC Transit and the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA). Eligible projects range from buying or repairing transit vehicles, preventive maintenance, ADA complementary paratransit service, and occasionally paying for transit service operations. Federal funding cannot exceed 80% of any capital project or 50% for transit service operations.

Bus and Bus Facilities (Section 5339)

This grant program makes Federal resources available to urbanized areas for the replacement, rehabilitation, and purchase of buses and related equipment. It also allows construction of bus-related facilities including technological changes or innovations to modify low or no emission vehicles or facilities. Funding is provided through formula and competitive grants. The City of Knoxville is the Designated Recipient of the Knoxville Urban Area Section 5339 formula funding.  Federal legislation suggests this funding is to be used by transit providers of fixed-route services. KAT is currently the only transit agency in the urban area that provides fixed route services. Federal funding is not to exceed 80% of the net cost of the project.

Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individual with Disabilities (Section 5310)

See TPO Grants above.

Rural Areas (Section 5311)

This grant program makes Federal resources available to rural areas for transit capital, operating assistance, and planning. Funding is made available to the State of Tennessee – the State determines how to allocate the funding among agencies throughout Tennessee. ETHRA receives Section 5311 funding and provides on-demand transit services for 16 East Tennessee counties. Since Knoxville is the region’s hub for medical services and employment, often Section 5311-funded services will travel between the rural and urban areas.