By Keith Laing - 10/29/15 10:34 AM EDT
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is awarding $500 million worth of grants to 39 infrastructure construction projects in 34 states, the agency announced on Thursday.
The grants, from the agency's 2015 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, were awarded to projects that were selected from 629 applications from all 50 states and several territories and tribal governments, the DOT said.
Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Feds create advisory panel for self-driving cars Safety agency falls behind in rulemaking for hazardous materials MORE said the interest in the grant program illustrates the need for Congress to approve a long-term transportation funding bill.
"We already know that a growing population and increasing freight traffic will require our system to do more," Foxx continued. “In this round of TIGER, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future; ever safer, ever more innovative, and ever more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.”
The TIGER grant program was created by the 2009 economic stimulus bill. The program allows states to apply for funding for transportation projects that "will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region," according to the DOT's website.
The grant program quickly proved popular with both Republicans and Democrats, and it was expanded in the surface transportation bill that was passed by Congress in 2012.
The 2012 transportation bill has been due for renewal since 2014, but Congress has been unable agree on a way to pay for another multi-year round of road and transit funding. Instead, lawmakers opted to approve a temporary extension that lasts only until Nov. 20 earlier this week.
DOT officials said Thursday they would be able to award more TIGER grants to state and local governments if Congress approves a longer highway bill.
"The GROW AMERICA Act, the administration’s surface transportation legislative proposal, would keep TIGER roaring with $7.5 billion over six years for TIGER grants," the agency said.
The Transportation Department touted the fact that 43 percent of the latest round of grants went to infrastructure projects in rural areas, which the agency said is the highest percentage in the TIGER program's seven-year history.
The full list of projects that were awarded money from the TIGER program can be read here.