COVID-19 Updates: For the most up-to-date information on accessing our services learn more here.

Financial Assistance for Transportation-Related Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Financial Assistance for a Transportation-Related Historic Building Rehabilitation Project

Financial Assistance for Transportation-Related Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

If you own a historic commercial building that is associated with a transportation-related use, you may be able to get financial help for a rehabilitation project from a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant. The types of buildings that may be eligible for this type of grant include:

  • Gas stations
  • Motels
  • Railroad-related hotels
  • Train depots
  • Other structures that have ties to rail, boat or vehicle transportation

Only local governments with taxing authority, state agencies and Indian tribes are eligible for TAP funding. Therefore, if you are a private property owner, you would have to partner with a local nonprofit organization that can seek sponsorship from an eligible government entity. One possible partner for a TAP grant is your local Main Street Program office.

TAP Grant Administration

The U.S. Department of Transportation offers TAP grants as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). This act extended the federal-aid highway program through September 30, 2012, and authorized new provisions effective October 1, 2012, for the federal fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

TAP grants are designed to fund projects that enhance traditional highway facilities, develop bicycle trails, complete streetscape improvements and rehabilitate historic bridges and transportation-related buildings. The TAP grants are administered through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). TAP grants are available for a wide range of community improvement activities, such as the construction of bike paths, creating rails-to-trails corridors and making public safety improvements. One TAP grant category is “historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities.”

The TAP grants are the latest version of what used to be known as the Transportation Enhancement (TE) program. The United States Congress created the TE Program in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The goal of the program was to promote activities that would “enhance” the surface transportation system beyond normal highway projects.

TAP Grant Project Specifications

Projects funded by a TAP grant must meet all federal and state requirements. Federal funds will provide up to 80% of project costs, while the sponsor must provide at least 20%. The project sponsor must pay for the project and then seek reimbursement for the project from the state. At the completion of the funded project, the building must be in usable condition so additional money will not be needed to make it a useful project.

Projects costing $200,000 or more that involve construction are eligible for TAP funding, as are non-construction projects costing $50,000 or more. In Wisconsin, eligible activities include engineering and design, real estate and construction costs. Construction and real-estate related projects must cost $100,000 or more to be eligible. Design and non-construction projects costing $25,000 or more are also eligible.

TAP Grant Application

Funding for the TAP program is on a competitive basis. A committee ranks projects and makes funding recommendations to the WisDOT Secretary. Applications for TAP grants are typically solicited in even-numbered years. Two to three years of funding is made available to projects for the three to four fiscal years following the calendar year in which projects are selected. For example, projects that were developed in 2010 were funded in the 2011–2014 cycle.

TAP-Funded Projects in Wisconsin

The WisDOT TAP program has funded more than 500 projects—worth about $140 million in federal funds—throughout the state. The most popular TAP grants have been for bicycle paths, accounting for about 60% of projects. However, transportation-related historic buildings have also been funded in Wisconsin. Any building whose history includes a contribution to Wisconsin’s ability to transport people and products are potentially eligible for funding. Some possible types of buildings include railroad depots, railroad hotels, early gas and service stations, boathouses and livery stables.

TAP Grant Success Story: Mineral Point Railroad Depot Museum

EnlargeRailroad Depot

Mineral Point Passenger Depot, 1856

Mineral Point, Wisconsin. The Mineral Point Depot received financial assistance to aid in the restoration. Source: Photographer Mark Fay. View the property record: AHI 56144

Railroad depots are a common type of historic building to receive TAP grants. They are often developed into local transportation museums. The Mineral Point Railroad Depot, in use from 1856 until 1984, was an important distribution point for lead ore. In 2000, the property’s owner founded the Mineral Point Railroad Society to begin restoration work on the building. The Society partnered with the City of Mineral Point to apply for a TAP grant from WisDOT. Rehabilitation consisted of stabilizing the structure, upgrading and modernizing building systems and renovating the interior. The depot was rehabilitated with a variety of funds, including a $653,394 TAP grant. The rehabilitated building opened in 2004 as the Mineral Point Railroad Museum, interpreting the history of the depot itself and railroad history in Wisconsin.

EnlargeRailroad Depot

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot, 1904

Shawano, Wisconsin. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad prior to its restoration. Source: WHS - State Historic Preservation Office. View the property record: AHI 22241

TAP Grant Success Story: Shawano Depot

Another successful railroad restoration project occurred in Shawano. The former Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Depot was built in 1904. The depot is located near the middle portion of the popular Mountain Bay biking trail, which connects Green Bay to Wausau. The depot was restored in the year 2000 with assistance from a $64,400 TAP grant. This grant award was intended not only to renovate the depot but to contribute to Shawano’s downtown revitalization efforts. Today, the depot serves as a stop for cyclists and snowmobilers. The depot’s rehabilitation has spurred the creation of new businesses nearby. 

EnlargeRailroad Depot

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot, 1904

Shawano, Wisconsin. This historic railroad depot has been rehabilitated with a new use while maintaining its historic identity and integrity. Source: Photographer Mark Fay View the property record: AHI 22241

TAP Grant Success Story: Robinson-Herrling Sawmill

Buildings that have a more indirect connection to transportation can be eligible for TAP grants. The Robinson-Herrling Sawmill, located on the banks of the Mullet River in Sheboygan County, filled an important economic and social role in this rural community from the time of statehood. The mill was constructed in 1848, and production increased steadily. By 1860, it produced 160,000 board feet of lumber. While the building itself was not used for transportation, many of its products ended up in transportation-related structures. The lumber was used in plank road, building, bridge, pier and wharf construction, as well as railroad development. The owners received a $400,000 TAP grant in 1998 because of the building’s connection to transportation. The building was restored into one of the state’s few turbine-powered working sawmills.