The desire for federal 'TIGER' grants shows no signs of fading in transportation circles.

'TIGER' Fever Rises as DOT Gets $19B in Grant Requests
Photo: U.S. Dept. of Transportation
LaHood's DOT is sorting through almost 1,000 applications

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation reported on Sept. 24 that the second round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants had drawn more than $19 billion in applications for the $600 million it has available to award.

A DOT spokesperson says that the department hasn't set an award date yet for the 'TIGER II' round.

In all, DOT said it received almost 1,000 applications for the TIGER II competition, from every state, plus U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia.

The TIGER grants are designed to help finance highway, transit, rail, port and other transportation projects that promise to have significant national or regional impacts.

In announcing the application numbers, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement, "The wave of applications for both TIGER II and TIGER I dollars shows the backlog of needed infrastructure improvements and the desire for more flexible funds."

The initial TIGER round, which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, drew nearly $60 billion in applications for the $1.5 billion available. DOT announced the TIGER I winners on Feb. 17.

Unlike the first TIGER round, TIGER II requires 20% of the project costs to come from local matching funds. TIGER I provided 100% federal funds.

In addition, Congress directed that a minimum of $140 million of the TIGER II aid must go to projects in rural areas. TIGER I had no rural set-aside.

The new round, funded by DOT's regular 2010 appropriations, has another new wrinkle: As much as $35 million of the $600 million can go for planning grants. DOT is teaming with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which has $40 million for its Community Challenge Planning grants.

Planning grants also are popular: DOT reported that nearly 700 applications came in for the DOT or HUD planning money.