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U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced April 2 the availability of $500 million for transportation projects through the seventh round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program.The TIGER 2015 discretionary grants will focus on surface transportation infrastructure projects that generate economic development and improve access to transportation, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) press release."The TIGER program has funded innovative projects, sparked new partnerships, created intermodal connections and enabled hard-to-fund projects that are changing the face of communities all across the country," said Foxx.Although the fiscal-year 2015 Appropriations Act provides no dedicated funding for planning, preparing or designing capital projects, such activities may be eligible to the extent that they are part of an overall construction project. A minimum of 20 percent of the funds will go to projects in rural areas, USDOT officials said. Pre-applications for TIGER VII grants are due May 4 and final applications are due June 5.Since 2009, TIGER grants have provided a combined $4.1 billion to 342 projects in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.