Competition remains intense for the Dept. of Transportation's TIGER grants, which help fund road, rail and other projects deemed to have major regional or national impacts.

DOT reported on April 5 that it had received 703 applications, totaling $10.2 billion, for the 2012 round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program—far more than the $500 million it has to award. Applications flowed in from every state, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The new TIGER competition is the fourth since 2009. In the first three rounds, DOT received 3,348 applications totaling more than $95 billion. It awarded $2.6 billion for 172 projects. DOT expects to announce the fourth-round winners in the next couple of months, a DOT spokesperson says. Congress mandated that 2012 TIGER aid be obligated by Sept. 30, 2013, a tighter deadline than in earlier rounds.

Congress mandated that at least $120 million of the $500 million go to projects in rural areas. DOT also says it will make available up to $100 million of the total for high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects. Congress zeroed out DOT high-speed-rail funding in 2011 and 2012.

DOT says it will give priority to proposals seeking TIGER aid as part of a financing package for a project. TIGER money can fund up to 80% of a project's total cost. DOT's fiscal 2013 budget request to Congress includes a further $500 million for a TIGER-like program.