Mark Szakonyi, April 3, 2015, JOC.com
U.S. ports and backers of other freight projects are getting another shot at getting some help from Uncle Sam to pay for repair and maintenance work and expansion projects, thanks to the announcement of the latest round of a popular federal infrastructure grant program.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Thursday said that $500 million in discretionary grants will be available through the seventh round of the TIGER program.
The funding awarded through the latest phase of the competitive grant program, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, is $100 million less than was available to ports, railroads, cities and others seeking support for passenger, commuter and freight transport projects last year.
Last year, projects aimed at improving freight movement received a little less than a third of the available TIGER grant funding, according to an analysis by the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, a Washington D.C. based group representing freight interests. In that same round of funding, seven ports received roughly $73 million in TIGER grants that helped support more than $327 million in upgrades, expansion and project planning.
The Obama administration wants to expand the TIGER program so that it would award $7.5 billion in grants over six years. But that aggressive ramp-up hinges on Congress adopting that plank from the president’s Grow America Act, his latest surface transportation proposal. With funding for Obama’s plan dependent on the unlikely passage of tax reform and Congress set to punt on a long-term highway bill because of a lack of dollars, such a robust TIGER program looks elusive.
DOT will accept applications for the latest round of grants through June 5. The program has awarded more than $4.6 billion in grants since it was launched in 2009.