WASHINGTON — The Department of Transportation is expected Wednesday to announce $600 million of grants for transit, rail, bridges, and other state and local surface projects, including at least $390 million for 28 projects in 21 states, according to members of Congress and local officials.
The grants range from under $1 million to over $47 billion, and at least one award will help leverage a half-billion-dollar federal loan.
The awards come from a pool of discretionary grants authorized by Congress and dubbed TIGER II, after the similarly designed Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program that was created by the stimulus law. Every state asked for TIGER II grants, and their requests overwhelmed the $600 million that was available.
DOT officials said they received almost 1,000 construction grant applications requesting more than $19 billion of capital investment from the federal government. The Obama administration and many federal lawmakers have cited the demand for TIGER grants as evidence that states need more money for roads, bridges, transit, and rail.
As of Tuesday afternoon, grants totaling at least $390 million for 28 projects in 21 states had been disclosed by lawmakers and public officials.
Atlanta expects to receive one of the most generous grants, $47.6 million, to help create a streetcar system that is intended to improve transportation for its downtown area. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said in a statement that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told him Atlanta’s project is “a good and necessary project and one that deserved federal funding.”
LaHood will be in Atlanta Wednesday to formally present the award, according to Lewis.
The Seattle and Fort Worth areas will receive large grants of $34 million each, according to members of the Washington and Texas delegations.
“I’m proud to have established the TIGER program to fund projects like these that create jobs through large-scale construction projects,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation panel. The grant will be used to rebuild the South Park Bridge in Seattle, which was closed in June by King County for safety reasons, according to Murray’s staff.
Another $34 million grant will be awarded to help complete the Tower 55 rail project in Fort Worth, according to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee. The project “epitomizes a successful public-private partnership,” she said in a statement.
A large grant will be awarded to Los Angeles and used to leverage a half-billion-dollar federal loan. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has pressed Congress to help finance the city’s 30/10 initiative, which aims to get 30 years’ worth of transit projects done in 10 years.
Villaraigosa and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said a $20 million TIGER II grant will leverage a $546 million loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act program. The TIFIA program has been oversubscribed, partly due to lack of funding that it requires to finance the loans.