US Department of Transportation boosts PPP, TIFIA funding

The department’s $1.5bn grant program known as TIGER - Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – funded several public-private partnerships and approved $60m in credit assistance under the TIFIA lending programme.

The US Department of Transportation has awarded $1.5 billion of grants toward “high-priority” transportation infrastructure projects across the United States, including two public-private partnerships.
 
TIFIA, the department’s high-demand lending programme for infrastructure projects, also received a part of the funding, which was made available through the US government’s $787 billion stimulus bill.
 
The so-called TIGER grants, short for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, ranged from under $4 million to over $100 million, according to a statement from the department.
 
The grants went to more than 50 projects across 41 states and the District of Columbia, with freight rail, road and bridge repair and urban transit projects receiving major portions of the funding.
 
Though most of the projects are being financed by local governments, select public-private partnerships (PPPs) also received funding.
 
The department gave $100 million to the Illinois Department of Transportation for a package of 78 freight rail congestion improvements in the Chicago area. The improvements are part of a PPP between private freight railroads, the City of Chicago, metropolitan commuter rail line Metra and the government-funded passenger carrier Amtrak.
 
The department also gave $20 million to the Port of Gulfport Rail Improvements in Mississippi, a PPP between the local port authority and freight railroad KCS to upgrade rail service at the port.
 
The state of California also received money for a project that will be partially executed as a PPP. The government gave  $46 million toward California’s Doyle Drive replacement project, which aims to replace the southern access route to the Golden Gate bridge with a newer, safer road that will be called the Presidio Parkway.
 
The state of California recently began a procurement process to find private sector partners to help it deliver part of the parkway under a PPP arrangement. The total cost of the replacement is about $1 billion, according to the project website.
 
Projects in six states – Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri and Colorado – also received $60 million in grants eligible to be used to finance direct loans under the TIFIA credit programme.
 
The programme, created by the namesake 1998 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, provides low-cost loans to transportation projects and has seen such high demand in the wake of the credit crisis that the Department of Transportation has had to revamp its application process to make it more competitive.
 
At $60 million, the TIFIA grants stood at about one-third of the $200 million the department was allowed to allocate to the programme under TIGER. However, that is still nearly half the approximate $122 million annual appropriation Congress had given to TIFIA in recent years.
 
All together, the department said it received nearly 1,400 applications for the TIGER grants requesting more than $57 billion.
 
A second round of TIGER awards is also possible later this year, as Congress allocated another $600 million to the Department of Transportation to hand out during the government’s 2010 fiscal year, which ends 30 September.