Recovery Act:

The Department of Transportation Followed Key Federal Requirements in Developing Selection Criteria for Its Supplemental Discretionary Grants Program

GAO-09-785R: Published: Jun 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2009.

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The Recovery Act established relatively few requirements for the design of the TIGER grant program. In addition to the requirements outlined in the opening paragraph of this report, the act requires that the department (1) award grants of no less than $20 million and no more than $300 million with no more than $300 million awarded for projects in any one state; (2) give priority to projects that are expected to be completed by February 17, 2012; (3) give priority to projects that require a contribution of federal funds in order to complete an overall financing package, although the federal share of the costs for which expenditure is made may be 100 percent; and (4) ensure a balance in addressing the needs of rural and urban communities and an equitable geographic distribution of funds. In its May 18 interim notice, the department created two tiers of selection criteria--primary and secondary. The primary selection criteria are (1) long-term outcomes (state of good repair, economic competitiveness, livability, sustainability, and safety) and (2) jobs creation and economic stimulus. The secondary criteria are innovation and partnership. Within each criterion, the department has created several factors to be considered, such as how an investment is expected to provide long-term outcomes by improving the asset's condition (state of good repair) and contribute to community livability.

In our opinion, the information in the department's interim notice generally adheres to the requirements in three key pieces of federal guidance for communicating important elements associated with funding opportunities and awarding grants that support economic recovery and transportation infrastructure, as well as complying with Recovery Act requirements. We found that the department's interim notice follows OMB's guidance because it provides a description of the primary selection criteria, secondary selection criteria, and program-specific selection criteria. The primary selection criteria are applied to assess a project's impact on desirable long-term outcomes for the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region, as well as its ability to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity. The secondary selection criteria are applied to assess the extent to which a project uses innovative technology and receives financial commitment from or otherwise involves state and local governments, and other public, private, or non-profit entities. The interim notice also states that the department will use program-specific criteria to assign priority among similar projects within a mode, such as similar bridge replacement projects.

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