The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its third round of grant funding for the popular TIGER program today, awarding $511 million to 46 projects across the country.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the department announced the awards several months before its spring 2012 deadline to ensure that the winners could get started on the work more quickly. Applicants started applying for the grants in August.
Just under half the grant funding goes to road and bridge projects. About 29 percent supports transit projects, and the rest goes to ports and freight rail.
The agency received 848 applications requesting a total of $14.3 billion in aid – nearly 30 times the amount awarded.
“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” LaHood said in a statement.
DOT officials awarded grants to programs that federal officials believe will help the economy in the long-term, upgrade existing systems, increase energy efficiency, enhance safety and improve travel times.
The largest of the recipients, which each received $20 million, help fund:
Repairs to 3.6 mile of Chicago Transit Authority track, which would finish improvement's between the downtown loop and O'Hare International Airport. Construction of 29 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes in Northern Virginia, which would connect to HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway. Roadway improvements along the I-70 corridor in St. Louis. An 8-mile extension of State Route 91 express lanes in Southern California. The first two rounds of TIGER provided $2.1 billion to 126 projects that federal officials believe have have national or regional impact. The program was originally created as part of the stimulus package. The administration has touted the grants as a way to send the most money to the most deserving projects, ensuring the best use of limited taxpayer resources.
The grants are a favorite among state, regional and local governments. But the grants are somewhat controversial, since instead of awarding them based on formulas, DOT officials use their judgment to send funding to programs they view as the most significant to the country at-large.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this year criticized DOT for not clearly documenting the process and rationale for selecting particular projects, and some Republicans have said that may suggest grants are awarded for political purposes.
See the list of the newest round of TIGER recipients below: