Chicago Bike Share, Virginia Toll Road Big TIGER III Winners

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A map of TIGER III grants (image courtesy of U.S. DOT)

Ray LaHood loves Rahm Emanuel. Chicago was a big winner in this round of TIGER grants, getting some $20 million to establish a bike share program and overhaul the Blue Line.

The state of Illinois received another $24 million, putting the Land of Lincoln at the top of the list. Other big winners were California and Virginia, which received funding for work on HOT lanes and highway projects; and St. Louis for a road project near the Arch.

In a phone call with reporters Thursday, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted the winners in this round of Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovering (TIGER) grants. These grants, which were created as part of President Obama's federal stimulus program, are earmarked for surface transportation projects.

The grants were handed out ahead of schedule, part of President Obama's promise to accelerate federal grant-making to create job opportunities after Congress failed to pass his American Jobs Act.

The 46 projects were selected from 828 applications.  "All told," LaHood said, "communities requested some $14.1 billion in funding, which was no match for the $511 million we had available." He called the requests a "powerful testament" for the American people's enthusiasm for transportation.

LaHood was speaking from Cincinnati, which won almost $11 million for its streetcar system. "We like streetcars," he said. "It's something that we have always felt was a good project."

The DOT was authorized to award $527 million for this round of grants, and today it formally committed $511 million. LaHood said the program cost $16 million to administer. "We have to make sure this money is spent correctly," he said. "There's a lot of administrative work."

LaHood was asked about the recent decision that pulled the plug on light rail in Detroit in favor of a bus rapid transit system. He said he was taking his cues from Michigan's governor and Detroit's mayor. "We don't try and dictate what kind of innovative approaches people want to take when it comes to transportation," he said. "We''re willing to put some significant dollars into a regional transportation, a regional transit plan in the Detroit area, because this is what the mayor and the governor would like to see."

To see a complete list of grants, go here (pdf)