Officials have broken ground on a South Dakota highway upgrade, the first of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $1.5-billion Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program projects to get under way.

The July 1 ceremony marked the start of a $28.6-million reconstruction project on a 15.6-mile stretch of U.S. 18 from Pine Ridge to Oglala. Funding includes a $10-million TIGER grant.

South Dakota DOT awarded the contract in May to Loiseau Construction, Flandreau, S.D. The project includes grading, surfacing and widening shoulders and is expected to be completed in November 2011.

Competition for TIGER grants has been intense. States submitted more than 1,400 proposals, totaling about $60 billion, to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.  The ARRA statute says the projects are to have significant impact on a metropolitan area, region or the nation. Awards were announced in February.

States that didn't snag a TIGER grant in that competition have another chance. DOT has launched a second TIGER round, with a total of $600 million at stake. Congress provided those funds as part of DOT's regular 2010 appropriations.

Pre-applications for TIGER Round Two are due July 16. The deadline for final applications is Aug. 23.

There may be a third TIGER round. The House transportation appropriations subcommittee  recommended $400 million for the TIGER program in the fiscal 2011 spending bill it approved July 1.