WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress want to end the popular federal TIGER grant program for major transportation projects.

The program would not receive further funding under an appropriations bill offered by Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, chairman of the subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development, and related agencies. The bill awaits authorization of the long-stalled surface transportation bill.

Notable TIGER Grant Projects in FY 2011

“There are no words to adequately describe the absolute necessity for the enactment of a multi-year surface authorization bill in the immediate future,” the subcommittee report reads.

The panel “is optimistic that serious and rational people will come together to find a resolution in time for the funding levels in this bill to take effect,” the report adds.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program is a federal program first established as part of the economic stimulus program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The current TIGER program is not identical to the original, but is structurally similar and has kept the same name. Congress allotted $500 million for the program in fiscal 2012, and President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget sought the same for 2013.

“While the committee agrees that the nation is in desperate need for infrastructure investment and improvements, the administration has yet to demonstrate or define the process, priority or criteria for how these grants are awarded,” the report states.

A fourth round of TIGER grant decisions is expected to be released soon. Applications were 20 times greater than available funds.

In three previous rounds, the program has distributed $2.6 billion to 172 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to the Department of Transportation. TIGER typically provides a large block of funding for large projects, which can be augmented by local bond financing. TIGER grants place a heavy emphasis on projects that benefit localities,  the DOT noted.

Transportation lobbyists said the move looked like election year politics, and the ultimate fate of transportation funding would depend on whether a new highway bill passes or not. The current authorization expires at the end of this month.

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