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US opens $527m in TIGER grants

The US Department of Transportation is seeking applications for the third round of TIGER grants, which can support public-private partnerships. Through the grant programme, which originated as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the US has already disbursed $2.1 billion to 126 transportation projects.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking applications for $527 million in TIGER grants, marking the beginning of the third round of the competitive transportation grant programme.

US Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood said in a statement that the grants are focused on building “critical” transportation projects “that might not move forward without this infusion of funding”. The newest round of TIGER funds, which were authorised in the fiscal year 2011 budget that President Barack Obama signed in April, can support projects including roads, bridges, freight rail, public transit and ports, according to a DOT statement.

The TIGER grants – the name is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – began as part of the 2009 US stimulus programme. The DOT previously provided $1.5 billion and $600 million in the respective first and second rounds of TIGER grants, and both rounds were heavily oversubscribed. In the first round, the DOT selected 51 projects out of nearly 1,400 applications that sought grants totaling more than $57 billion.  In the second round, the DOT selected 42 projects and gave planning grants to an additional 33 projects, out of a pool of nearly 1000 applications seeking $19 billion.

The grants can be used to support public-private partnerships (PPPs). Private developers participating in a PPP are allowed to submit applications for the grants, but the project’s lead sponsor must be a public entity in order to qualify for a TIGER grant, according to a DOT spokesperson.

One example of PPP which benefited from the TIGER grants is the project known as the Presidio Parkway, which involves the reconstruction of an access ramp to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Through the TIGER programme, the state of California received $46 million for the project, which will be partially executed as a PPP.

The TIGER grants can also be used to support the DOT’s oversubscribed TIFIA programme, initiated by the 1998 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The TIFIA programme provides long-term, low-cost loans to transportation infrastructure projects. Up to $150 million of TIGER funds can be used to support TIFIA loans, according to a DOT spokesperson.

Applications for the grants will be due in the fall, according to a DOT statement.