Transportation’s Role In Economic Recovery
If you’re a businessowner looking to get a piece of the $150 billion that the country’s transportation system received in economic stimulus funds, or if you’re looking for a job in the transportation industry, you may want to follow the TIGER.
On June 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation solicited applications for the second round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery discretionary grants, or TIGER II, a $600 million competitive grant program for capital investment in surface transportation projects. Details of the solicitation notice may be found in the Federal Register (www.gpoaccess.gov/fr), the daily publication for rules, proposed rules and notices of the federal government.
Projects eligible for TIGER II funding are highway or bridge projects; public transportation projects; passenger and freight rail transportation projects; and port infrastructure investments. Pre-applications, due July 16, 2010, were to be used to determine eligibility, the presence of matching funds, and whether the project has received or expects to receive the necessary environmental approvals, DOT said. Final applications must be submitted through Grants.gov by Aug. 23. According to the Federal Register, DOT will announce the winning projects on or after Sept. 15.
The federal government is anxious to see transportation projects implemented. “Transportation is a great enabler of economic growth, the lifeblood of commerce. It moves people to jobs and goods to the marketplace.
Without strong transportation arteries, economies stagnate,” DOT argues in an official statement. Moreover, the projects themselves will create badly needed jobs.
By early February, a year after the Stimulus Bill was signed into law, more than 12,000 stimulus transportation projects had been put out to bid, representing 77 percent of the funding for highway and transit programs included in the two-year stimulus plan, according to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Work on 9,241 projects totaling $20.6 billion, or 60 percent of the stimulus funds, had begun and 3,148 projects had been completed, it said. Posted on DOT’s Web site at www.dot.gov, the awards are an important lead for job, prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities.
TIGER II follows the highly successful TIGER I program, in which DOT received more than 1,400 applications from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia requesting funding for nearly $60 billion worth of projects, 40 times the $1.5 billion available under the program.
The awards, announced in February, went to states, tribal governments, cities, counties and transit agencies to fund 51 transportation projects nationwide, ranging from bridge replacements and freight rail corridor improvements to streetcar extensions and bicycle / pedestrian networks. They are the kind of projects, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, that “will help spur lasting economic growth, reduce gridlock, provide safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices and create jobs.”
The largest TIGER I award was $105 million, and that went to a multistate freight rail project. The average award size was $30 million.
The TIGER Discretionary Grant Program was authorized by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, popularly known as the Stimulus Bill, to spur a national competition for transportation projects that would significantly benefit the economy and environment of an entire metropolitan area, a region or the country as a whole. Only state, tribal and local governments (including U.S. territories), as well as transit agencies, port authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, other political subdivisions of state or local governments and multistate or multi-jurisdictional groups may apply for funding.
In choosing the winners, the government looks primarily for contribution to the country’s long-term economic competitiveness and improvement in existing transportation facilities and systems, in energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in the safety of U.S. transportation facilities, and in the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. DOT said it will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.
Though similar in structure to TIGER I, TIGER II Discretionary Grants are for National Infrastructure Investments provided for in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2010 (Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Act). Whereas TIGER I grants range from $20 million to $300 million, TIGER II grants range from $10 million to $200 million. Unsuccessful applicants for a TIGER I grant who wish to be considered for a TIGER II grant must reapply under the new procedures.
Similar to the TIGER grants, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding $40 million in Community Challenge Grants for activities that include corridor or station-area plans. The similarity led DOT and HUD to propose conducting a joint project evaluation and award process, in keeping with the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to which both sides subscribe. The partnership aims to help U.S. rural, urban and suburban communities gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, lower transportation costs and a cleaner environment.