Thoughts from the TIGER V grants

The United States Department of Transportation recently released the list of project recipients for the fifth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding.  Information on the program and the list of recipients can be found here.

As I read through the list, there were a number of things that jumped out at me as interesting.  That’s not to say that these are good or bad trends, just trends that I found interesting.

First, the total amount of funds awarded are down slightly year over year, but are showing a slight downward trend.  As the chart below shows, there was a significant decline from 2009 to 2010 as ARRA Recovery funds were a one time event.  This year, 52 project in 37 states received a total of $474 million of grant funds.  Because TIGER grants only fund a portion of the total project costs, the $474 million of grants will support over $1.8 billion of projects.  Not too shabby.

Second, there are fewer projects submitting applications to compete for TIGER grant funds. It appears that the second year of the program (2010) saw a bump in applications as project sponsors saw the success of the first round of funding.  This year saw 585 applications from every state, Puerto Rico and Guam.  Several sponsors have indicated that they have stopped applying for grant funds because the application process is complicated and the amount of potential awards is declining.  Some of these sponsors also report being discouraged by having been overlooked 1 or more years and feel like their project doesn’t stand a reasonable chance of award.  That may in fact be true.  Some projects just may not be good TIGER candidates.  However, with the demonstrated “need” for infrastructure investment in the US, I would have guessed that applications would be increasing year over year.

Third, with fewer applications being received, each application stands a better chance of receiving an award.  In the early years of the program, only 4-4.5% of the applicants received any award.  That figure has more than doubled, with 9.2% of the applicants receiving an award in the 2013 round.  So, your chances have never been better to get those funds you need!

Finally, it appears that Ports and Port Related projects are doing much better in the grant competition.  This year, 22% of the projects that received an award were for port related projects for a total award value of $104 million.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the following TIGER award recipients were port related:

Projects directly related to seaports included in TIGER V awards are:

  • Jackson County Port Authority (MS) – Port of Pascagoula Intermodal Improvement for $14,000,000 – “to upgrade the rail connection at the Port of Pascagoula Bayou Harbor to make the transportation of goods in and out of the port more efficient.”
  • Diamond State Port Corporation (DE) – Rehabilitation of Wharf Unit 1 (Berths 5/6) for $10,000,000 – “to rehabilitate a wharf which serves two berths at the Port of Wilmington that  is currently in a state of disrepair.”
  • Duluth Seaway Port Authority (MN) – Port of Duluth Intermodal for $10,000,000 – “to rebuild and expand a 28-acre general cargo dock at the Port of Duluth-Superior and connect the site to existing road and rail infrastructure.”
  • Port of Houston Authority (TX) – Port of Houston: Bayport Wharf for $10,000,000 – “to extend the Bayport Terminal’s wharf from 3,300 feet to 4,000. The wharf will provide a stable platform against which container ships can be moored and support cranes that load/unload containers and the trucks which handle the container movement on port property.”
  • Maryland Port Administration (MD) – Port of Baltimore Enhancements for $10,000,000 – “to expand the handling capacity at the Fairfield Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore by filling in the obsolete West Basin. The project also includes the construction of a rail intermodal facility to handle expanded automotive export and imports.”
  • Eastport Port Authority (ME) – Eastport Breakwater Replacement for $6,000,000 – “will replace the dilapidated breakwater at the Port of Eastport and two of its pier sections, which serve as important economic anchors of the local and regional community. In addition…will increase berthing space to enable larger vessels to service Eastport.”
  • Port of Oswego (NY) – East Terminal Intermodal Connector for $1,527,000 – “will allow the Port of Oswego to continue to grow and serve critical industries including, aluminum, agriculture and renewable energy.”
  • Port of Garibaldi (OR) – Port of Garibaldi Wharf Revitalization for $1,474,761 – “to recreate a modern, attractive, and fully functional working wharf to provide a basis for long-term economic recovery of a rural, distressed community.”

Other seaport-related infrastructure projects receiving TIGER V grants include:

  • South Florida Freight & Passenger Rail Enhancement for $13,750,000 – “to better link Southern Florida’s two major freight rail corridors to improve freight and passenger connectivity in the region. Facilitates intermodal connectivity to major multimodal freight centers and the business that use facilities including PortMiami.” 
  • Delta Frame Bridge (VA) for $11,957,984 – “to rehabilitate the Lexington Delta Frame Bridges along I-64 in Rockbridge County, VA. I-64 provides the only interstate access to The Port of Virginia, which includes three separate major port facilities in the Hampton Roads area. This project will ensure the bridges continue to serve as critical links joining the exchange of goods and services across the United States.”
  • SEPTA-CSX Separation Project (PA) for $10,000,000 – “to separate passenger and freight trains on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s West Trenton Regional Rail Line…which provides access to the Port of Philadelphia.”
  • Port of Tucson (AZ) – Container Export Rail Facility for $5,000,000 – “will help provide a seamless transition for Sun Corridor businesses and exports to international markets through West Coast and Gulf Coast ports.”

Overall, this isn’t a bad showing for the TIGER Grant program.  Giving away funds is never a bad thing for the projects that are lucky enough to receive the grants and hopefully this additional layer in the capital stack is the “key” that enables these projects to move forward.

For those that just can’t help themselves, below are the detailed descriptions of the projects that have received TIGER funding since its inception: