Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the 51 projects that won highly sought-after federal funds from the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary grant program, which attracted more than 1,400 applications for almost $60 billion worth of projects.
Transportation advocates have praised the program, created in last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for awarding money using competitive, mode-neutral, performance-based criteria. Some have even suggested that it provides a model for reforming existing grant programs or even for restructuring the surface transportation program. LaHood himself wrote in a Feb. 17 post on his Fast Lane blog, "This is not just another grant program; this is a new way of recognizing merit, a way that breaks through old formulas and rewards."
Should an expanded version of TIGER discretionary grants be included in the surface transportation reauthorization bill? Should the TIGER program be the basis for replacing or reworking certain existing programs (like Projects of National and Regional Significance) when the surface transportation law is reauthorized? Or could it serve as a model for restructuring the entire law's approach to how the federal government invests in our nation's infrastructure?