Tiger Grants Summit Recap

Tiger Grants Summit Recap

April 24, 2015. Washington, DC

On April 16, I attended the highly anticipated U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Summit. This was the first summit on this immensely popular and competitive grant program with over 300 attendees and almost 600 participating via webcast according to DOT. Interest in this program remains high with many communities across the nation in need of critical infrastructure improvements to support citizens economically, socially, and through safe and efficient transportation. The Summit included information and tips to help applicants prepare to compete for the merit-based grant funding.

The Summit began with comments from Secretary Anthony Foxx who stated that the goal of the event was to demystify TIGER to enhance the competitiveness of applicants. DOT wanted to provide outreach and help all communities be competitive in this seventh round of TIGER. The Secretary emphasized that projects that connect people to education and employment centers and are based on holistic and strong people-based outcomes, including creating ladders of opportunity that provide a path to the middle class and build the nation’s economy, will be well positioned for this round. He indicated that applicants must effectively articulate how a project ultimately solves major problems and makes a difference in the lives of people striving to advance their quality of life.

The Summit also afforded Secretary Foxx the opportunity to highlight that TIGER would increase significantly under the Obama Administration’s Grow America Act, which proposes $478 billion funding for a 6-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal to invest in transportation infrastructure. Attendees were encouraged to contact members of Congress to advocate for support of the legislation.

The Summit also included presentations by DOT staff on critical elements of the application and submission process, as well as advice from representatives of communities that were awarded previous TIGER grants on how they successfully approached and managed the application process. DOT staff highlighted the following attributes that applicants should focus on when developing competitive TIGER applications:

  • Keep application simple
  • Do not provide history lesson on city/region
  • Focus on project need up front and why it should be funded
  • Clear articulation of ladders of opportunity is important to Secretary Foxx and needs to be addressed by projects – explain how project benefits low income population in need of transportation to work, education centers, and services
  • Seek transformative projects that align with ladders of opportunity
  • Primary and Secondary criteria must be addressed
  • Applications do not have to address every selection criteria – stick to your strengths
  • Devote more resources in application on the criteria the project meets – being strong in 2-3 criteria is acceptable
  • Develop innovative, multimodal projects
  • Leveraging should be strong
  • Partnerships should be strong
  • Clear articulation of benefits of project relative to the selection criteria – this is critical
  • Must link components of project – disparate project application will not be competitive
  • Try to match as high as possible – no magic formula or number – highest possible match is best, but smaller communities are not expected to match at same levels as major metropolitan areas – Evaluators will confirm proof of match
  • Spell out match for any other federal funds invested in projects
  • Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) has to verify that project benefits exceed project costs
  • Use excel spreadsheet to list all raw data inputs to support BCA
  • Schedule must show ability to complete all planning, design, feasibility study, etc. by June 30, 2017
  • Provide status on all other required approvals to support project readiness
  • Provide information on whether project is on TIP or STIP and coordinate with MPO and state accordingly
  • Include strategies for mitigating risks that will adversely impact progress of project
  • Do not wait until last minute to submit application

During a session on lessons learned, a panel of successful TIGER applicants representing projects in Miami, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Maine, Mississippi, and the state of Washington, provided tips and recommendations that contributed to their success in securing a TIGER grant. A number of these points are highlighted below:

  • Recognize tight timeline and consider putting together a TIGER Team
  • Examine selection criteria and clearly explain each attribute that meets that criteria for your project
  • Put project in context with other local and regional initiatives and how it grows the local and national economy – look at project from the standpoint of outcome and where you want to go in the future – put in the context of jobs and quality of life
  • Start prep work early and appoint strong project manager – USDOT looking for ready-to-go projects – communicate with stakeholders
  • Think innovatively to advance project
  • Present vision for TIGER project – build partnerships and employ effective continued communication
  • Have partnerships provide cash and in-kind contributions – view project as a win/win for local community and USDOT
  • Secure public and private sector letters of support and government resolutions to confirm the support of local, state, and federal representatives
  • Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and supporting budget documents – shows strong indication of partnerships, local match, and a degree of project readiness which is vital
  • Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) – be creative and thorough and heavy on societal benefits
  • Be strategic and listen for the kinds of projects USDOT seeks to choose for the most competitive project – prioritize projects
  • Provide consistent project updates to regional FHWA and FTA staff
  • Do not underestimate congressional delegation – secure their support

Please contact me at rhamm@hammconsulting.com or 202-596-8384 for assistance with your TIGER grant.