Ports Make 11th-Hour Push for TIGER Grants in Spending Bill

Ports are making a last ditch attempt to convince House appropriators to include funding for TIGER grants, which ports depend on for rail and truck infrastructure projects, in a transportation-housing spending bill under markup July 17.

Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants are “a key multimodal funding source for freight projects that are vital to rebuilding our national infrastructure while addressing multimodal freight transportation funding challenges and needs,” the American Association of Port Authorities wrote to Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Shipping containers

The president’s budget request and a House appropriations subcommittee bill propose zero funds for the TIGER program. The administration’s budget argued that the TIGER program is redundant because other programs fulfill the same funding needs. 

But port groups say that contrary to that argument, TIGER funding is especially useful for ports because of the grants’ ability fund multimodal projects; projects that include improvements to both rail and truck infrastructure.

“While the FAST Act authorized and provides $11 billion in freight funding, only $1.13 billion is multimodal eligible,” the AAPA letter says. “TIGER continues to be a vital tool for ports and freight stakeholders alike for building complex multimodal freight projects that address the challenges of the 21st century freight network.”

Ports are trying to upgrade facilities and their connecting infrastructure to facilitate efficient movement of an increasing amount of cargo from bigger container ships that are becoming the international standard.

A funding request submitted by AAPA in April says FASTLANE grants are primarily focused on highway projects. This means the majority of funds through that program can’t help ports bolster their rail infrastructure, a key component of moving cargo in and out of many ports efficiently.

At least $29 billion is needed for port landside transportation infrastructure projects nationwide over the next decade, according to a 2015 report from AAPA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The flexibility of being able to use the grant money on a range of projects is important, John Young, director of freight and surface transportation policy for AAPA told Bloomberg BNA July 17.

“We need more flexibility, because highways and railways merge at ports,” Young said. “We’re multimodal facilities.”