Freight Can’t Wait: Budget Caps Increased to Enable Transportation Investments

March 26, 2018
Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery program got a budget boost in 2018 and is $1 billion above FY 17 levels.

While there is no disagreement on the need for a dramatic improvement to the US infrastructure, there are a number of mechanisms as to how to fund them.  

One such mechanism, the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program recently received an increase in its budget. It was tripled to $1.5 billion through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which funds the federal government through September 30 and was sent by Congress for the President’s signature on March 23.

The funding is $1 billion above FY17 levels.

The Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors (CAGTC), which is a diverse coalition of more than 60 public and private organizations, has advocated for infrastructure funding distributed through competitive grants to address complex needs that are frequently multimodal and multijurisdictional in nature, which Congress reflected in its bill language. 

The group says that projects are difficult, if not impossible, to fund through formula programs and that the TIGER program is one of few Federal resources available to address these needs of regional or national significance.

 “We commend Congressional leadership for providing much-needed Federal transportation infrastructure funding through the TIGER competitive grant program,” remarked Elaine Nessle, CAGTC executive director. “TIGER is a proven economic multiplier, attracting $3.50 of state, local and private money for every $1 of Federal investment. Moreover, the program has been a critical resource for complex freight infrastructure projects, which are necessary to support economic growth and international competitiveness.”

Although the TIGER program is open to a wide variety of mobility needs, freight has competed favorably in the program and received 44% of total funding since the program was created in 2009. This success is due in large part to freight infrastructure’s ability to score high when criteria are applied that focuses project outcomes such as economic, sustainability and safety benefits as well as mobility of commerce.

Respecting CAGTC’s long-standing call for the use of outcome-based, objective criteria, the omnibus law forbids projects from being evaluated solely on their ability to attract non-federal revenue and instructs the Administration to direct attention to “an appropriate balance in addressing the needs of urban and rural areas, and the investment in a variety of transportation modes.”

 “As a member of two teams that have received TIGER awards, I have seen where TIGER funding provided unique opportunities to make strategic investments to complete multi-million dollar freight-related projects,” said CAGTC Board Member Glenn Miles, who is executive director of Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization. “Continued TIGER funding is essential to making improvements on our nation’s freight system that can support and enhance our local, state and national economy.”

The latest TIGER awards, released just last week, were demonstrative of the significant demand for competitive grant programs. TIGER IX requests outnumbered available funding $12.50:$1 and an impressive 56% of available funding was awarded to freight infrastructure projects. In its inaugural round, the freight-focused INFRA competitive grant program received $13 in request for every $1 in funding.

CAGTC points out that economic data support the case for investment in multimodal freight infrastructure. as the network directly supports 44 million U.S. jobs and the health of our nation’s other economic sectors depends on the system. To illustrate the types of vital freight infrastructure projects that have received TIGER awards through the previous nine rounds, attached is a listing of successful CAGTC member projects. 

How Freight Competes in TIGER

Freight historically competes well in the TIGER discretionary grant program, earning 44%, or $2.5 billion of the $5.6 billion in awarded funds since the program was created in 2009.

--TIGER I – February of 2010: Awarded 51 projects, 22 of which (or 43%) contained a strong freight component. Those 22 projects received 49% of the available funds, totaling more than $730 million.

--TIGER II – October of 2010: Projects with a strong freight component received $316 million, or 53% of the roughly $600 million in available funding. 

-- TIGER III – 2011: Named 46 successful projects, 18 of which were devoted to freight or had a strong freight component accounting for over $232 million (or 45%) of the total $511 distributed through the grant program.

·--TIGER IV – 2012: Provided funding for 47 projects, 21 of which were devoted to freight or had a strong freight component accounting for over $228 million (or 47%) of the total $485 million distributed through the grant program.

·- TIGER V – 2013: Provided funds for 52 projects, 25 of which were freight-related, accounting for over $205 million (or 43%) of the total $474 million distributed that year.

-- TIGER VI – 2014: Distributed a total of roughly $600 million to meritorious projects, with one in three grant dollars, or just over $198 million, to freight projects.

-- TIGER VII – 2015: 44% of funds, totaling over $219 million of the roughly $500 million awarded, awarded to freight projects.

-- TIGER VIII – 2016: Relative to previous years, the lowest percentage of funds were awarded to projects with a strong freight component, totaling just $129 million (26%) of the roughly $500 million awarded.-

--TIGER IX – 2018: Appropriated in 2017, funding awarded in early 2018 was distributed among 41 projects, 22 of which were freight-related, accounting for over $275 million (or 56%) of the total $487 million.

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