The Department of Transportation is expected to launch TIGER III during the next few weeks, ultimately awarding grants for capital projects from $528 million that was provided for the program in the recently enacted fiscal 2011 budget compromise.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Act program, known as TIGER, was originally created as part of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package in early 2009. The grants awarded by the program are extremely competitive and can be used to help fund almost any transportation project.

A Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed to The Bond Buyer that the TIGER III money was indeed in the bill, but said the DOT isn’t ready to make any formal announcements about the program for several weeks.

The TIGER funding wasn’t obvious in the budget compromise because it was labeled as “National Infrastructure Investments.”

President Obama signed the 2011 budget compromise measure on April 15. The DOT is required by statute to wait 60 days, which would be June 15, before it can issue a so-called Notice of Funding Availability. That notice amounts to a call for state and local governments and authorities to start preparing applications. Then the department must wait at least another 120 days — until sometime in mid-October — before it can begin accepting applications.

The budget compromise did not eliminate any of the $600 million of TIGER II funds provided last year, though the $528 million provided for TIGER III is 12% lower.

Part of the $72 million funding cut was $35 million to help jurisdictions with “planning, preparation or design” for their projects.

The TIGER III money will come with a new restriction: it will only be available for capital investment.

Last year, the DOT awarded $557 million in TIGER grants to 42 capital projects and $28 million to 33 planning projects. Another $15 million was used for administrative expenses.

As in TIGER II, the applicants for TIGER III will have to put up at least 20% of the funding with no more than 80% coming from the federal government. In TIGER II, the department wanted applicants to make more than a 20% contribution.

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