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How to win TIGER II grants
We’ve fielded a number of inquiries about the second round of TIGER grants since the DOT announced round two. Fortunately, last week, the DOT held a panel presentation to provide guidance to help applicants submit competitive applications. The DOT posted a recording of the seminar. They emphasize that while their comments will be helpful, the official notice of funding should be considered the authoritative source. That goes for my notes from the session as well. For background on TIGER grants, see the biking-related results from the first round.
Note that while our readers are mostly bicycling advocates and enthusiasts, a TIGER grant applicant must be a unit of government. Private entities must partner with a government agency. Some bicycling advocacy groups, however, were helpful to agencies filling out applications in the first round, and hopefully that will be the case again.
TIGER is a performance-based competitive grant program. Eligible projects include Complete Streets and other projects that breakdown modal and departmental silos. These grants are extremely competitive. According to the DOT, there were 14,000 applications in the first round, seeking $60 billion. In the end, $1.5 billion was awarded to 51 projects. This round of funding will be much smaller. Further, of the approximate $540 being awarded, at least $140 million will be awarded to rural areas. Making applications as competitive as possible is extremely important. (The first round was funded with ARRA stimulus funds, while the second come from DOT funds. See America Bike’s report on the changes for round two.)
The first piece of advice the DOT officials offered was to make sure that you follow the eligibility requirements spelled out in the federal registry. For example, projects must be a capital investment in surface transportation. Importantly, it must have “independent utility,” meaning that the awarded TIGER funds must complete a project, and cannot just make up one phase of a multi-phase project. Except in rural areas, grants need to be $10 million. Again, see the video and check the federal registry for more details.
The panel also stressed the simply submitting an application for an eligible project, did not make it a competitive application. Competitive applications should strongly fulfill the grant’s five primary criteria. They should help maintain a state of good repair, contribute to economic competitiveness (of the country overall) over the medium to long term, foster livability and increase transportation choice, help environmental sustainability, and improve safety. The DOT is also looking for projects that involve innovative strategies and build partnerships.
As always, clarity is important in the application. Projects descriptions should be easy to read and clearly articulate how the project addresses a transportation challenge and meets the criteria. They provide a suggested outline to help make sure applicants hit all the relevant points. Applicants should also provide clear evidence for their claims, linking to documents for proof.
Again, this round of TIGER grants will be extremely competitive. If the average grant size is the same as in the first round, they will only have enough money to fund 18 projects. For more, I refer you again to the recording of the seminar and federal registry.