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— by Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
On Sept. 9, numerous politicians and state leaders began to tout Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) VI grants they learned were coming their way from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Three days later, the department named all 72 recipients.
The USDOT is allocating $600 million for transportation projects in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The department received 797 applications — up from 585 in 2013 — for grants totaling $9 billion, or 15 times the available TIGER VI funding, USDOT officials said in a press release.
Grants totaling more than $131 million were awarded to 17 rail- and transit-related projects, including:
The percentage of TIGER VI funding for rail-related projects is down versus prior years, according to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC). In 2013, more than $200 million in TIGER V grants were awarded for 21 projects. But the merit-based, mode-neutral grants still are an improvement from transportation funds that traditionally are distributed by mode, said NRC President Chuck Baker in a bulletin issued Sept. 12.
"These awards are a testament to the quality of the applications being produced by the public agencies and their rail partners, in addition to reflecting on the inherent efficiencies of rail," he said.
About one in three grant dollars were awarded for 25 freight-movement projects, a decrease in total funding compared with previous rounds, including $205 million allocated through TIGER V, according to the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC).
"This round of TIGER highlighted that across the spectrum, transportation projects need resources to be realized, and even awards that are small relative to the project's overall cost have a significant impact," said CAGTC President and Executive Director Leslie Blakey in a press release.
Meanwhile, seven grants totaling $74.2 million — or about 13 percent of total funding — were awarded for maritime projects, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). The awards include:
But the funding is only about half of what's needed in the maritime sector, said AAPA President and Chief Executive Officer Kurt Nagle in a press release.
"[We] urge that 25 percent of TIGER grants be provided for port-related and connector infrastructure," he said.
Since 2009, the TIGER program has provided nearly $4.1 billion in grants for 342 projects. Although the fiscal-year 2015 appropriations process is ongoing, the Senate has proposed $550 million and the House, $100 million for TIGER VII grants, said the NRC's Baker.