TIGER Discretionary Grants and TIGER TIFIA Payments

Congress authorized $1.5 billion for the awarding of discretionary surface transportation grants to be given out by the Secretary of Transportation to state and local governments or transit agencies on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan region or a region.

This new program is multimodal. The Secretary can select projects for highways, bridges, mass transit, passenger or freight rail, and port infrastructure, or some combination thereof, at a federal cost share of 100 percent. The law also directs the Secretary to make geographically diverse selections and to give preference to projects that can be completed within three years of the bill’s enactment.

This program is geared towards larger projects; there is a minimum grant size of $20 million, which is waivable by the Secretary, and a maximum grant size of $300 million, together with a limitation on the total funding going to any one state being no more than 20 percent of the total appropriation (also $300 million). To leverage larger amounts of funding, the Secretary may use up to $200 million of the $1.5 billion for credit assistance as under the TIFIA innovative finance program (subtitle VI of title 23 U.S.C.)

Because this is a new program, it was necessary for the U.S. DOT to develop rules that announce the availability of funding, project selection criteria, application requirements, and the deadline for submitting applications. Those rules were published in the Federal Register on May 18, 2009.


The U.S. DOT is authorized to award $600 million in TIGER II discretionary grants through Title I of the Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 111-117, Dec. 16, 2009). The grants will provide at least $140 million for projects in rural areas (outside of urbanized areas of 50,000 or more in population), not more than $150 million for subsidies under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, not more than $35 million for planning and design of eligible projects, and not more than $25 million can be retained by the U.S. DOT for administration and oversight.

This appropriation is similar, but not identical to the appropriation for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER discretionary grant program, authorized and implemented pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. U.S. DOT officials said in a TIGER II program summary: “Because of the similarity in program structure and objectives, the DOT is referring to the grants for National Infrastructure Investments under the FY2010 Appropriations Act as ‘TIGER II Discretionary Grants’.”

Grant awards can be made in the range of $10-200 million; however, in rural areas awards may be as small as $1 million. 

At least 20 percent of projects costs must be provided from nonfederal funds; however projects in rural areas may receive up to 100 percent federal funding. Projects can increase their competitiveness by demonstrating significant nonfederal contributions.

States, local governments, transit agencies, ports, metropolitan planning organizations, and Native American tribes, among others, are eligible to apply.

Similar to the TIGER grant program, TIGER II grants will be awarded on a competitive basis. The U.S. DOT will give priority to projects that have a significant impact on desirable long-term outcomes for the nation, a metropolitan area or region.  All surface transportation capital projects are eligible, including highways and bridges, public transit, freight and passenger rail, and ports.

The U.S. DOT announced it will accept preapplications for TIGER II grants received before July 16.  Preapplications will be reviewed by the U.S. DOT to determine whether they meet the three threshold requirements (project is eligible for TIGER II funds; NEPA has been initiated; and local match supports at least 20 percent of costs).  Final applications are due Aug. 23.  The application system is expected to be open by July 30.

Awards may be made no sooner than Sept. 15, 2010. Funds will be available for obligation through Sept. 30, 2012.

Federal Register Notice, Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - Notice of Funding Availability

U.S. DOT TIGER II Web site, including frequently asked questions, fact sheet and additional details

TIGER Discretionary Grants

Under this program, referred to by the U.S. DOT as Grants for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER Discretionary Grants, funds will be awarded to state and local governments who submit applications for projects that include, but are not limited to, capital investments in highway or bridge projects, public transportation projects, passenger and freight rail, and port infrastructure investments.

Selection criteria
TIGER Discretionary Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis based on the following selection criteria, which incorporate the criteria specified in the Recovery Act:

    (a) Long-term outcomes : The U.S. DOT will give priority to projects that have a significant impact on desirable long-term outcomes for the nation, a metropolitan area or a region. The following types of long-term outcomes will be given priority:
      (i) State of good repair : Improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, with particular emphasis on projects that minimize life-cycle costs.
      (ii) Economic competitiveness : Contributing to the economic competitiveness of the United States over the medium- to long-term.
      (iii) Livability : Improving the quality of living and working environments and the experience for people in communities across the United States.
      (iv) Sustainability : Improving energy efficiency, reducing dependence on oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefitting the environment.
      (v) Safety : Improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and systems.
    (b) Job creation and economic stimulus : Consistent with the purposes of the Recovery Act, the U.S. DOT will give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity, particularly jobs and activity that benefit economically distressed areas.
    (c) Innovation: The U.S. DOT will give priority to projects that use innovative strategies to pursue the long-term outcomes outlined above.
    (d) Partnership: The U.S. DOT will give priority to projects that demonstrate strong collaboration among a broad range of participants and/or integration of transportation with other public service efforts.

The Federal Register notice provides additional guidance on the selection criteria. The U.S. DOT will give more weight to the “long-term outcomes” and “jobs creation and economic stimulus” criteria than to the “innovation and partnership” criteria. Projects that are unable to demonstrate a likelihood of significant long-term benefits in any of the five long-term outcomes will not proceed in the evaluation process. For the “jobs creation and economic stimulus” criterion, a project that is not ready to proceed quickly is less likely to be successful.

Program-specific criteria
The U.S. DOT will use certain program-specific criteria to help differentiate between similar projects (for example, New Starts projects or bridge replacements). To the extent two or more similar projects have similar ratings based on the selection criteria, the program-specific criteria will be used to assign priority among these projects.

Distribution of funds
The Recovery Act prohibits the award of more than 20 percent of the funds made available under this program to projects in any one state. The Recovery Act also requires that the U.S. DOT take measures to ensure an equitable geographic distribution of funds and an appropriate balance in addressing the needs of urban and rural communities.


The Recovery Act also allows for up to $200 million of the $1.5 billion to be used to pay the subsidy and administrative costs of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) program, a federal credit assistance program, if it would further the purposes of the TIGER Discretionary Grants program. The U.S. DOT refers to these payments as TIGER TIFIA Payments. The U.S. DOT estimates that $200 million of TIGER TIFIA Payments could support approximately $2 billion in TIFIA credit assistance.

Applicants seeking TIGER TIFIA Payments must apply in accordance with all of the criteria and guidance specified for TIGER Discretionary Grant and will be evaluated concurrently with all other applications. Applicants must also submit a separate TIFIA loan application.

Iowa Applications

Applications for this program were due Sept. 15, 2009, and a funding announcement was made by the U.S. DOT on Feb. 17, 2010. None of the applications submitted by the Iowa DOT were selected for funding.

Project Description

Project Type

Federal Funding Requested

I-29 interstate reconstruction, Segment 3 in Sioux City, Woodbury County


$34 million

I-74 Mississippi River bridge, Scott County


$126 million (joint application between Iowa and Illinois)

I-80/Iowa 945 to Iowa 1, Johnson County


$41.1 million

U.S. 6 (Broadway Viaduct), Pottawattamie County


$26.4 million

U.S. 30 Tama/Toledo bypass


$23.8 million

U.S. 34 Missouri River Connector, Mills County


$143.4 million (joint application between Iowa and Nebraska)

U.S. 61 Fort Madison bypass, Lee County


$45.5 million
BNSF Burlington Bridge Rail $25 million
CRANDIC Interchange Project Rail $7 million
IANR Bridge/Rail Rehabilitation Rail $19,859,268
UP Clinton Bridge Rail $33 million

UP Wind Belt Project

Rail $24 million

[Note: Information regarding applications submitted directly to the U.S. DOT by local governments or transit agencies in Iowa must be obtained from the respective agencies. The Iowa DOT does not collect that information. According to the U.S. DOT announcement, applications submitted by the City of Dubuque for the Millwork District Multimodal Improvements project ($5,600,000) and Ames Transit Agency for the Ames Intermodal Facility ($8,463,000) were selected for funding.]