Once again we see the latent demand across the country for funding projects that move people and goods more quickly, safely, and cleanly. For the 2013 TIGER (V) program, USDOT received 568 applications requesting more than $9 billion. How much funding does USDOT have to grant? About $474 million. Applications were received from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa. See USDOT’s news release.
During the previous four rounds, USDOT received more than 4,050 applications requesting more than $105.2 billion for transportation projects across the country. USDOT provided 218 projects with about $3.1 billion.
The downward trend of applicants for TIGER funds continued with this round. Many past applicants, who were unsuccessful once or twice in previous rounds, are reluctant to invest the time and funds required to complete a TIGER application. In some cases that’s good, as some projects had little realistic chance of receiving a grant. In other cases the trend is not good, as projects worthy of TIGER funds aren’t submitted again.
Even if you assume that some of the projects are “nice-to-have” instead of critical needs, there are a lot of unfunded projects for moving people and goods more quickly, safely and cleanly.
Here’s how TIGER 2013 matches up against previous rounds, in terms of number of applications and total funding requested:
- TIGER 2013: 568 applications received, requesting $9 billion.
- TIGER 2012: 703 applications requested $10.2 billion; 47 grants fwere awarded and split $500 million.
- TIGER 2011: 848 applications for $14.29 billion; 46 grants split $511 million.
- TIGER 2010: 1700 applications for $54 billion; 75 grants split $583.7 million.
- TIGER ARRA: 1400 applications for $60 billion; 51 projects split $1.5 billion.
TIGER is program in which projects are awarded grants according to a set of criteria, as opposed to earmarks which were more likely to be awarded based on political reasons. TIGER is popular among communities and public agencies because it is one of the few remaining transportation grant programs that provide a sizable dollar grant, funds multi-modal projects, and communities with little political clout can still have a shot at funding.
TIGER has been criticized by many Republicans and a few Democrats (many from states or districts with unsuccessful TIGER applicants) for a lack of transparency in the selection process, and for the kinds of projects funded (e.g., bike-ped, complete streets). The previous House Transportation Committee Chair, John Mica, was particularly critical; learn more from “House Transportation Chair Mica Is No Fan of TIGER Program.” The nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated and found that the “[TIGER Program] Could Benefit from Increased Performance Focus and Better Documentation of Key Decisions.” Learn more from GAO’s 2-page Highlights PDF or the 60-page Report PDF.
Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.