The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced the 47 transportation projects that have been awarded nearly $500 million in funding through the popular TIGER grants program, now in its fourth round.
The timing of the announcement comes as the legislation that authorizes the federal highway and transit programs is set to expire in a week. The announcement may serve to highlight the projects of state and local governments, who argue that Congressional inaction on transportation legislation over the last few years has introduced uncertainty – and delays – into their own work.
Federal lawmakers on a conference committee have until the end of the month to come to terms on a new highway and transit bill or extend the old one, should the existing legislation expire.
The TIGER program is very popular among state and local transportation offices because of the diverse types of work it can fund. Unlike other USDOT grants, TIGER doesn’t restrict awards to particular modes of transportation or types of infrastructure. That makes it especially attractive to cash-strapped states and localities, many of which are still suffering from decreased revenue in the wake of the recession. USDOT received more than 700 applicants for the latest round of funding.
The grant program also has a reputation for instituting rigorous standards when selecting awardees, and it was recently praised for those standards in a paper by the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonpartisan think tank. But there's been some criticism of the program too. A Government Accountability Office report released last year found that the department didn't clearly document its decision-making process and rationale for selecting particular projects.
Initially created as part of the stimulus, TIGER is now in its fourth round of issuing grants. The latest round was funded by appropriations legislation signed in November. All total, the four rounds have provided $3.1 billion in funding to 218 projects. USDOT has received more than 4,000 applications, according to its announcement.
The administration has touted TIGER as a sort of mini-stimulus that can help key transportation projects get underway while creating jobs.
“President Obama’s support for an America built to last is putting people back to work across the country building roads, bridges and other projects that will mean better, safer transportation for generations to come,” USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “TIGER projects mean good transportation jobs today and a stronger economic future for the nation.”
Here's the full list of winners. The largest grants include:
- $21.6 million to fund 80 percent of the cost of rehabilitating a bridge along I-15 near the Arizona-Utah border. The project is being performed jointly by those states, along with Nevada, because of its position along a trade corridor.
- $21 million to support upgrades to Raleigh Union Station in North Carolina. A planned high speed rail line will serve the city, but according to USDOT, Raleigh's existing Amtrak station is too small to accommodate a larger volume of trains and passengers. The project is also being touted as a way to stimulate development in the area.
- $20 million to expand 95th Street Terminal, the fourth-busiest rail station in the Chicago Transit Authority system. Last year it served 4 million rail passengers and 1.3 million bus passengers.
- $18 million to build a new 1.4-mile streetcar line in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that would serve an estimated 2,800 riders per day. The city, state and regional Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization will put in another $65 million toward the project. Eventually, the plan is to extend the line to 5.4 miles.
- $16 million to upgrade two roads that connect to a cargo-dedicated airport near Columbus, Ohio. Officials say traffic along those roads will increase as the volume of trade soars in response to the expansion to the Panama Canal and the development of the Heartland Corridor freight rail project.