|This photo illustrates the need for new cross ties that are sought in a TxDOT-sponsored transportation project seeking TIGER grants.|
Just how bad is the nationâ€™s transportation infrastructure and how tight is federal funding to address transportation projects? According to a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report, the United States needs to spend $101 billion annually over the next two decades to maintain the nationâ€™s highway system. Want improvements, too? That will cost another $69 billion per year.
Itâ€™s no small wonder that when DOT announced available funding for a new round of federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants, the funding sought from applicants far exceeded the amount of funding available – as in 20 times more.
There were more than 700 applicants from state and local governments in all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Their applications collectively totaled $10.2 billion. The bad news? There is only $500 million available in this round of TIGER 2012 funding.
To show the discrepancy between the money needed for infrastructure projects and whatâ€™s available, the 30 applications from Texas governmental entities alone totaled more than $570 million – $70 million over the total available for the entire country.
The grant funding will be awarded on a competitive basis. During the first three rounds of TIGER grant allocations, a total of 172 projects nationwide and in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were funded – sharing $2.6 billion. But the 172 projects funded were a small portion of the 3,348 applications received that together requested a total of more than $95 billion.
As in past rounds, high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail projects are again eligible for funding. In fact, up to $100 million may be awarded for these projects, with another $120 million available for rural transportation projects.
Lead applicants in this round may submit no more than three applications for consideration. The Texas Department of Transportationâ€™s (TxDOT) three applications as lead applicant include:
South Orient Rail Line Rehabilitation â€“ This is a rural freight rail transportation project for which more than $5.94 million in TIGER funding is being sought. That represents 68.5 percent of the project cost of more than $8.5 million. The project would upgrade 12.52 miles of rural freight rail from Sulphur Junction to Fort Stockton because of substandard rail, defective ties and track alignment problems.
US 77 Overpass at La Parra Avenue â€“ Fifty percent of the total cost of $11.3 million â€“ more than $5.6 million â€“ is being sought for this project. The project would construct an overpass along US 77 at La Parra Avenue in Sarita in Kenedy County. The total length of the project is 1.578 miles.
Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Loan for North Tarrant Express Segment 3 â€“ No details available.
NETEX Rail Line Rehabilitationâ€“ This is a project in which TxDOT is a partnering agency with another lead applicant â€“ the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX). Funding of $9.49 million is being sought, with NETEX to provide $500,000 in matching funds. This project calls for replacement of 83,426 main line, 3,499 siding/spur and 350 switch cross ties with associated ballast and installation, surfacing work, rail alignment, profile correction and vegetation removal, necessary to achieve and maintain FRA Class 2 standards.
Projects will be evaluated on criteria that include safety, economic competitiveness, livability, environmental sustainability, state of repair and short-term job creation.