The Hill.com 2/23/16 10:24 AM EST By Keith Laing
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to award $500 million worth of grants to states for infrastructure construction projects, the agency announced on Thursday.
The grants, from the agency’s 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that will be selected from applications from state and local governments, the DOT said.
The awards will be the eighth round of funding distribution for the popular TIGER grant program.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the popularity of the grants illustrates the importance of federal infrastructure funding, which has been questioned by critics of recent highway bills in Congress.
“The TIGER program funds vital transportation projects that provide real benefits to communities all across the country,” Foxx said in a statement.
“Every year, we see hundreds of compelling applications that have the potential to improve people’s access to economic opportunities, make people safer, and improve their well-being.” he continued. “I am proud that for seven rounds, TIGER has been able to make a valuable contribution to improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure, and I look forward to this year’s competition.”
The TIGER grant program was created by the 2009 economic stimulus bill. The program allows states to apply for funding for transportation projects that “will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region,” according to the DOT’s website.
The grant program quickly proved popular with both Republicans and Democrats, and it was expanded in the surface transportation bill that was passed by Congress in 2012.
The latest round of TIGER funding is being made available now was included in the government funding measure known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016 that was signed into law by President Obama in December 2015.
The DOT has touted the fact that it awarded $500 million worth of grants to 39 infrastructure construction projects in 34 states under the TIGER program last year.
The agency has said 43 percent of the last round of grants went to infrastructure projects in rural areas, which the DOT said was the highest percentage in the TIGER program’s seven-year history.