In the latest intense competition for Dept. of Transportation funds, the agency awarded $293 million for 53 streetcar and bus projects around the country. Some of the aid will go for construction.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, announcing the winners on July 8, said the grants are part of the Obama Administration’s community “livability” initiative, which links transportation planning and funding with housing and economic development.

Awards included $130 million in Urban Circulator funds and $163 million in Bus and Bus Livability aid. The federal grants will be supplemented by local funds.

Streetcar projects in St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Texas, and a Chicago bus-rapid-transit project each received about $25 million in Urban Circulator aid. The largest of the 47 DOT bus grants was $18.4 million for New York’s 34th Street Transitway.

Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff says, “This was a particularly intense competition.” DOT received 346 applications totaling more than $3 billion for the limited funds available.

Rogoff says that selection criteria included whether projects were ready to start, projected ridership and economic development impact as well as services that would be provided for transit-dependent and low-income people.

Recent DOT grant competitions for high-speed rail and other major projects also attracted crowds of applicants.

Looking ahead, LaHood calls the transit livability grants a priority. He adds that DOT will work with the Office of Management and Budget on future funding issues. He says, “We know Congress likes these programs.”