So many state and local governments are in fierce competition for $1.5 billion of discretionary grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation that it may be impossible for most of them to receive funding.

By the Tuesday midnight deadline, they had submitted applications for at least $7.3 billion of grants - almost five times more than the available funds - to finance projects ranging from railways and bicycle paths to toll roads and ships. Recipients will be announced in January, according to the DOT.

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