The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has formally kicked off what almost surely will be a hot competition for a second round of "TIGER" grants for major projects across various transportation modes.

DOT has $600 million in regular fiscal 2010 appropriations for the new round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants. 

The $1.5-billion first TIGER round, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, drew more than 1,400 proposals totaling about $60 billion. DOT announced the first-round winners on Feb. 17.

In a funding-availability notice published in the April 26 Federal Register, DOT says that pre-applications for what it is calling TIGER II grants are due by July 16. Final applications, to be filed through, are due by Aug. 23.

As with the first TIGER competition, projects in TIGER II must show "a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region," DOT says.

A key difference is that applicants for the TIGER II grants must put up at least 20% of a project's cost.  No non-federal matching funds were required in the first TIGER competition, although DOT looked favorably on 'TIGER I' applicants who put up a matching share.

Another change is that Congress set aside at least $140 million of the TIGER II grants for projects in rural areas. There was no rural set-aside in the first round.

There is an additional new wrinkle--DOT says it intends to do a joint evaluation with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development for planning grants. DOT is allowed to use up to $35 million of its $600 million in TIGER II money for applicants who have planning proposals. HUD has a separate, $40-million appropriation in 2010 for Community Challenge  Planning Grants.

In the Federal Register notice, DOT says that it and HUD "believe there is great value in issuing a joint solicitation for the two planning grant programs in order to better align transportation, housing, economic development and land-use planning and to improve linkages" among DOT, HUD and Environmental Protection Agency programs.