TIGER III Is Grrrrrr-eat News for Transportation Agencies

News about an upcoming TIGER III award program is beginning to leak out. The USDOT isn’t planning to release a solicitation for proposals until early summer, but the language in the recently-passed budget bill for this year gives some clues as to what we can expect.

Philly's bike and ped plan, which received $23 million in the first round of TIGER, aimed to alleviate pedestrian bottlenecks like these. Photo: Plan Philly

TIGER’s survival was one of the happiest surprises of the FY2011 budget. No money from the 2010 TIGER II allocation was rescinded, a pleasant surprise for TIGER fans. And the appropriation for 2011 is just 12 percent lower than the $600 million allocated last year. Part of what was cut, however, was $35 million to help jurisdictions with “planning, preparation or design” of projects. TIGER III will all be for capital investments. Like TIGER II, applicants will have to provide at least 20 percent of the funding, with no more than 80 percent coming from TIGER. A higher match is encouraged. Also like TIGER II, the money won’t be distributed purely on merit but also taking geographical diversity into account.

USDOT is required by statute to wait 60 days after the appropriation to put out the Notice of Funding Availability and then 120 days after that to start accepting applications. The budget was signed into law April 15, meaning we can expect a call for applications no sooner than mid-June, with the first day to actually apply being sometime in mid-October.

The program also might not be called “TIGER,” according to Ron Kirby, director of transportation planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments. In the budget, it’s referred to as “National Infrastructure Investments,” and when Kirby asked USDOT staff whether that’s what the program would be called, they said that was a decision that was going to be made “on high.”

More than 120 TIGER grants have gone to improving transportation options and land use all across the country – projects like the St. Paul Union Depot Multi-Modal Transportation Hub to bring Amtrak, intercity and local buses, light rail, taxis, and bikes together under one roof in the heart of downtown; the Philadelphia Area Pedestrian and Bicycle Network to complete a 128-mile network of bike/ped facilities, including primary commuter routes; the New Haven Downtown Crossing to convert Route 34 from a limited access highway to urban boulevards; the New Orleans Streetcar-Union Passenger Terminal/Loyola Loop to provide transportation options in the central business district and link to the Amtrak terminal; and the Tower 55 Multi-Modal Improvement to alleviate a major traffic and rail bottleneck and improve safety in Fort Worth, Texas by adding an additional rail track.