Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that the third project funded by stimulus-act Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants soon will begin construction. He says that another 16 or so TIGER projects will get under way during the rest of the current construction season.

TIGER grants were launched by last year's  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The statute directs that the grants are to  fund projects that are projected to have a major transportation impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area.

LaHood  provided the TIGER update July 27 in testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the  Dept. of Transportation's progress on its ARRA programs.

He said two TIGER road projects are under way--in Pine Ridge, S.D., and on Wyoming's Beartooth Highway.  A third, the Mercer Corridor project in Seattle,
will break ground in August, he added.

DOT on Feb. 17 announced the winners of 51 TIGER discretionary grants. ARRA provided a total of $1.5 billion for the new program.

Much of DOT's $48 billion in total stimulus funding has already been obligated, for shovel-ready projects in sectors such as highways, transit and airports.

For example, the House committee reported that as of June 30, work had started on 10,999 ARRA highway projects worth a combined $23.1 billion. That represents 87% of the stimulus act's formula highway funds. Work has been finished on 4,571 highway projects valued at $3.9 billion.

But the ARRA TIGER grants and it $8-billion program for high-speed rail will "spend out" much more slowly and be constructed over a longer period of time than in ready-to-go stimulus sectors like highways.

LaHood did cover DOT's high-speed-rail progress, saying that three specific ARRA high-speed-rail projects are under way and a fourth, in Maine, is expected to have a groundbreaking in August.

 DOT on Jan.. 28 announced the award of the entire $8 billion it was allocated for high-speed rail in the stimulus act. But that money has been slow to move to the states that won the grants. LaHood told the committee that so far DOT has obligated about $175 million of the $8 billion in ARRA rail funds, for initial work on corridors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

As a follow-up to the stimulus program, DOT is using $600 million in regular appropriations for a second round of TIGER grants. Applications for TIGER II are due Aug. 23.