WASHINGTON — State and local groups are bringing their concerns to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s upcoming TIGER II grants — $600 million to be distributed to highways, bridges, transit, freight and passenger rail, and ports — with ports requesting at least one-quarter of the money.
TIGER II is named after the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program that was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and authorized at $1.5 billion, but was vastly oversubscribed. TIGER II is essentially a second round of the competitive discretionary grants funded by annual congressional appropriations.
The largest grants from TIGER went to rail and transit projects, and some grants provided secondary benefits to the port sector. But the American Association of Port Authorities argued in comments submitted to the DOT last month that port-related infrastructure received only 8% of the funds. They said the department should correct the imbalance in its forthcoming TIGER II awards and give at least $150 million to projects such as port terminals and landside access to port facilities.
“I think that what happened was we made a very strong economic case [in the TIGER applications] but we didn’t make as strong a case for the quality of life and livability components” that feature prominently in the Obama administration’s transportation agenda, said Aaron Ellis, communications director for the AAPA.
The AAPA’s letter said that “port-related infrastructure projects, such as the Mercer Corridor Redevelopment in Seattle, the Fast Corridor access projects in the Pacific Northwest, and the Alameda Corridor in Southern California demonstrate that there are win-win solutions for livability and freight mobility.”
The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association also pushed for a 25% share of TIGER II funds, noting that ports do not have access to funds through multi-year surface transportation authorizations that allow most other modes of transportation to receive federal grants.
Other letters submitted include Philadelphia’s request for the DOT to accept applications only from states, local governments, and agencies or political subdivisions — municipal bond issuers, basically — and to coordinate its selection process with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would better position comprehensive plans such as Philadelphia’s “Integrated Planning and Zoning Process” to win grants.
The New York State Department of Transportation’s policy and planning division supported DOT and HUD teaming up as well.
However, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority suggested that the DOT and HUD pick the projects separately to avoid “unnecessary complexity,” adding that DOT should give higher priority to projects in metropolitan areas with high traffic congestion.