Opportunity Zones

Fifty-two million Americans live in economically distressed communities. These urban, rural, and suburban communities are located in every corner of the United States and its territories. Despite the growing national economy, these communities are plagued by high levels of poverty, failing schools, job scarcity, unsafe neighborhoods, and a lack of investment capital. In response, the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included a powerful new tax incentive—Opportunity Zones—to spur economic development and job creation by encouraging long-term investment in low-income communities nationwide. 
Opportunity Zones are a powerful vehicle for bringing economic growth and job creation to the American communities that need them the most. Opportunity Zones are nominated by states, which are then certified by the Secretary of Treasury. The United States Department of Transportation has identified transportation assets that fall within Opportunity Zones with the goal of driving investment of all types to these important areas. 
Opportunity Zones represent significant investment opportunities.
More than 8,760 communities have been designated as Opportunity Zones.
  • More than 8,760 communities have been designated as Opportunity Zones.
  • Nearly 35 million Americans live in communities designated as Opportunity Zones.
  • Life expectancy is on average three years shorter for Opportunity Zone residents than it is nationally.
  • On average, the median family income in an Opportunity Zone is 37% below the State median.
  • 1 in 4 Opportunity Zones have a poverty rate over 40%, compared to one in 15 census tracts nationwide.
  • The homeownership rate in Opportunity Zones is approximately 15 percentage points lower than the national average.
  • Unemployment rates are 1.6 times higher in Opportunity Zone census tracts than the average United States census tract.
  • Approximately 22% of Opportunity Zone adult residents have not attained a high school diploma, compared to 13% nationally.
  • The average poverty rate in an Opportunity Zone is more than 32%, compared with a rate of 17% for the average United States census tract.

Transportation in Opportunity Zones

U.S. Department of Transportation's Role

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regularly reports to the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council’s Chair and Vice-Chair on implementation actions and progress made within the Economic Development work stream. Through this subcommittee, USDOT will leverage federal grants and loans in a more integrated way to develop dilapidated properties and provide basic infrastructure and financial tools to attract private investment. As with any implementation plan, USDOT will remain responsive and adjust to changing dynamics, needs, and priorities discovered on the ground. 
Strategies and goals for the Economic Development Work Stream include: 
  • Target and streamline infrastructure programs to Opportunity Zones and other economically distressed communities; 
  • Leverage Federal grants and loans in a more integrated way; 
  • Improve and increase coordination between Federal, State, local, and tribal capital investment; 
  • Provide increased flexibility in existing Federal programs that operate within Opportunity Zones; and 
  • Spur private investment through public-private partnerships.
The economic benefits that new and innovative developments bring to communities are tremendous.
Only 9% of Opportunity Zones have at least one public transit station.
  • Only 9% of Opportunity Zones have at least one public transit station.
  • State, tribal, and local governments—being the primary stewards of United States infrastructure—own more than 90% of America’s public capital and  a majority of the capital dollars are spent on schools, transportation, water infrastructure, and distribution.
  • Infrastructure-related occupations provide meaningful salaries, having a median wage over $37,000.
  • Of the Qualified Opportunity Zones 40% are in rural census tracts, 38% are in urban tracts, and 22% are in suburban tracts.
  • As U.S. GDP grows at more than 3% and unemployment drops below 4%, modernizing infrastructure and development will be necessary to support the changing workforce
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2012, 14 million people have jobs in fields directly related to infrastructure, and infrastructure accounts for almost 11% of the nation’s workforce.

Explore the Opportunity Zones

Learn to navigate the Transportation in Opportunity Zones application.

Use the application to view transportation key features in Opportunity Zones (
open application in new window).

Department of Transportation Impact

For the past two years, DOT has worked to engage Opportunity Zones by updating the criteria of infrastructure programs to address underserved, low-income rural and urban communities. The Department has also included Opportunity Zone language to more than 30 grant notice of funding opportunity for FY20. Please note these grants are not to investors taking advantage of the Opportunity Zone tax benefit but a direct federal investment in the communities’ infrastructure.
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Multi-modal Infrastructure

Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants which was announced November 2019 had 21 awards totaling $331 Million going to infrastructure projects located in and around Opportunity Zones. Those awards will end up supporting $1.7 Billion in total project costs to these important areas.
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Port Infrastructure

The Maritime Administration announced awards for its Port Infrastructure Development Program February 2020. Of the $280 million announced for the program, 6 awards totaling $114 Million were awarded for port infrastructure projects in Opportunity Zones. 
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Airport Improvement

Also in February 2020, the Department announced $520 Million for Airport Improvement Grants. Out of that amount $67 Million will be going towards airports located in Opportunity Zones. 
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Rail Infrastructure and Safety

In March 2020 the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements awards were announced for $248 Million, of which $166 Million will be going to projects in Opportunity Zones.

Get Involved

Qualified Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These zones are designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities throughout the country and U.S. possessions by providing tax benefits to investors who invest eligible capital into these communities. Taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains by making an appropriate investment in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and meeting other requirements.
How do opportunity zones spur economic development?
Opportunity zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors.
  • First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) until the earlier of the date on which the investment in a QOF is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026.   If the QOF investment is held for longer than 5 years, there is a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain.  If held for more than 7 years, the 10% becomes 15%.  
  • Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least ten years, the investor is eligible for an increase in basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged.
Learn more about getting involved with Opportunity Zones
Learn more about DOT's funding opportunities
🖂 Contact DOT about Opportunity Zones
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