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.

In some cases, the federal grants provided through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program that was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would be coupled with bond financing.

While $1.5 billion of TIGER grants are available, the stimulus act provisions make it impossible for most of the applicants to receive all they requested.

Lawmakers put restrictions on the allocation of grants to make sure they are evenly distributed. Grants can range from $20 million to $300 million apiece, but grants awarded cannot exceed a total of $300 million in any one state.

As a result, localities will be pitted against each other, with their projects judged based on ability to create jobs and stimulate the local economy, among other factors.

In addition, the scope of eligibility is broad. State and local governments, territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, other political subdivisions, and multi-state or multi-jurisdictional entities are eligible.

The funds can be used for highways, bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, and port infrastructure projects.

Applications reflected the variety of eligible projects, based on statements from officials, as well as government records and local news reports. A spokeswoman for the DOT said yesterday that the department is still tallying the applications and funding requests.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority is requesting $95.6 billion to help fund a $212 million streetcar system expansion.

To cover the rest, the authority is proposing to issue $73.5 million of sales tax revenue bonds and would need to secure $25 million of grants from the Federal Transportation Administration.

California governments and agencies submitted applications for a total of $2.35 billion for 83 projects, according to the state's DOT. Among them were $62 million to help pay for the $1.189 billion replacement of the Transbay Terminal with a new, multimodal transit center and would allow it to accommodate high-speed rail, which the state also hopes to fund through a separate stimulus program.

Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois also submitted large requests.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is seeking $300 million, the maximum grant amount, to help fund 16 projects in its public-private partnership Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency rail program.

In addition to the TIGER grant funds, the projects would be paid for using private funds and by the state through its "Jobs Now" initiative.

The state went to market yesterday with $400 million of general obligation bonds to help pay for the initiative.

The Ohio DOT's applications totaled $587.9 million, and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said his state's DOT is seeking $440.2 million for highways and $109 million for rail.

Additionally, some projects proposed for the federal grants involve tolling. Arkansas is requesting $145.4 million to help pay for most of the Bella Vista bypass toll road that would stretch from northwest Arkansas into Missouri.

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