TIGER II Guidance Offered

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation this week issued guidance on how state and local governments should apply for $600 million for projects under a competitive discretionary grant program.

Final grant applications under the program, which is similar to the DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, are due Aug. 23 and the awards will be announced Sept. 15.

The $1.5 billion TIGER program was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and attracted 1,400 applications for 40 times more funding than was available.

Because of the popularity of the program, Congress authorized money for more grants in fiscal 2010 appropriations legislation for what was dubbed TIGER II. The DOT intends to coordinate its grant selection process for roughly $35 million of the $600 million of TIGER II money with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Additionally, Congress, in fiscal 2010 appropriations legislation, provided HUD with $40 million for competitive land-use grants, which can be awarded in coordination with the $35 million of TIGER II funds.

If the DOT and HUD jointly select projects, it would be a move toward the Obama administration’s agenda for more cohesive planning of transportation and housing efforts.

“This multi-agency approach for planning awards would be consistent with DOT and HUD’s participation in the 'Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” DOT stated in an announcement issued Monday.

The grants would be designed “to help American families in all communities — rural, suburban and urban — gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, lower transportation costs, and a cleaner environment,” the department said.

In addition, DOT can use $150 million of the TIGER II money to help subsidize the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, an over-subscribed initiative that provides low-interest loans and credit assistance for various projects. The loans and credit assistance often are used in conjunction with bonds.

TIGER II grants can be awarded to individual projects, transportation corridors, or regional transportation systems or networks. The HUD funding can be used for the development of master plans, zoning and building code reform, corridor and district plans, and miscellaneous uses such as land acquisition.

The TIGER II program is similar to its namesake, but unlike the original, applicants will have to provide matching funds of 20% in order to get their share of federal funding. Additionally, this version of the transportation-centric discretionary grant program must award at least $140 million to rural projects.

The TIGER program does not contain such a restriction. Under that program, each state cannot receive more than 25% of the funds.

For TIGER II grants, applications must total between $10 million and $200 million in most cases. The average award for TIGER, however, was $30 million, and the largest grant was for $105 million.

The DOT requested comments through May 7 on several aspects of the program, including DOT-HUD coordination, proposed selection criteria, and guidance for awarding the funds. Any changes made as a result of the comments will be published in the Federal Register by May 28.

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