Transportation infrastructure: DOT gears up for third round of TIGER grants
July 05, 2011
Last week, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that its TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program will dole out $527 million for its third round of grants.
The objective of the TIGER program is to ensure that economic funding is rapidly made available for transportation infrastructure projects and that project spending is monitored and transparent.
This round of funding follows the original $1.5 billion TIGER program, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and distributed grants to 51 projects out of more than 1,400 applications for almost $60 billion worth of projects that came in throughout the country. Of the 51 recipients, 22 centered on projects pertaining to goods movement. These funds were awarded in February 2010.
The second round of funding—also known as TIGER II—was awarded last fall and comprised of funding that went towards 42 capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states. And DOT said that roughly 29 percent of TIGER II funding was for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, 4 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and five percent for planning projects.
“Through the TIGER program, we can build transportation projects that are critical to America’s economic success and help complete those that might not move forward without this infusion of funding,” said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “This competition empowers local communities to create jobs and build the transportation networks they need in order to win the future.”
According to DOT officials, the previous two rounds of the TIGER grant program provided $2.1 billion to 126 transportation projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They added that demand for TIGER grants has been “overwhelming,” and during the previous two rounds, the Department of Transportation received more than 2,500 applications requesting more than $79 billion for transportation projects across the country.
Selection criteria for TIGER grants includes: contributing to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation; improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems; improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and improving the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections.
Applications for TIGER funding are due on October 31.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was step one and has financed nearly 15,000 transportation projects across every state in the country,” said LaHood in October. “It has improved 40,000 miles of roadways and will connect 80 percent of Americans with a high speed rail network within the next quarter century. And through the TIGER grant program, the Recovery Act is also funding $1.5 billion in merit-based projects across the country.”
In terms of next possible steps for the TIGER program, LaHood said that TIGER is included as part of the federal transportation DOT/HUD bill, which was passed in both the House and Senate in 2010. Although the funding levels are different in the House and Senate, LaHood said he is pleased that Congress realizes that the TIGER program allows for creative and innovative opportunities that don’t fall under the traditional formulas that have been used by the DOT.
In a previous interview with LM, Mort Downey, senior advisor at infrastructure firm Parsons-Brinkerhoff, described the TIGER grant award winners as the “cream of the crop.”
The criterion used by the DOT to select projects was fundamentally cost-benefit analysis, and this bodes well for the freight-related projects that were selected. But in order for these projects to be considered successful, Downey said they ultimately need to deliver.
“These grants are important on the job creation front and even more importation on the long-term economic growth front—particularly for the freight projects,” noted Downey. “The freight projects in particular have very large cost-benefit potential and are largely focused on shippers in terms of supply chain efficiency and reducing inventories and [transit time] delays. A lot of these projects were ‘partnership projects’ between entities like railroads and ports, and TIGER money acted as the closer to make these deals work.”
This announcement comes at a time when the nation’s transportation infrastructure situation remains in an ongoing state of flux since the last surface transportation bill—the six year, $285 billion SAFETEA-LU—expired in September 2009. Since that time, it has been funded through a series of continuing extensions at previous funding levels.
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