TIGER Grants funded these sidewalk and curb repairs in Kansas City, Mo.

It’s no secret that our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair, yet funding is often an issue — and that’s why financial options like the TIGER program have become increasingly critical. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a much-needed grant program aimed at improving road, rail, transit and port projects around nation. And since then, the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant program — better known as TIGER — has funded more than $3.1 billion in infrastructure repairs.

But as the fourth and latest round of grant requests indicates, demand still far exceeds supply. The DOT received more than 700 applications from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The requests for funding exceeded $10 billion — more than 20 times the $500 million allocated and a sobering reminder of the condition of our nation’s infrastructure and the lack of funds available to fix the problems.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said projects funded through TIGER grants will “promote greater mobility, a cleaner environment and more-livable communities.” The selection criteria is based on a number of factors and is awarded to projects that show multiple benefits, including improving the condition of existing facilities and systems; providing job creation and economic stimulus; encouraging innovation and partnership; and improving energy efficiency and public safety.

We’ve been fortunate to witness the TIGER Grants in action near our corporate world headquarters. Kansas City, Mo., has used part of a $50 million grant awarded in 2010 to fund projects in its Green Impact Zone, a 150-block area in the city’s urban core that, according to its website, has “experienced severe abandonment and economic decline.”

Much of the transportation infrastructure in this area was in poor condition and in need of some serious TLC. The repairs — which include improved traffic signals, better transit-stop amenities, street resurfacing and sidewalk replacement, and a pedestrian bridge under the Troost Avenue Bridge — will provide better access to regional opportunities and support redevelopment in the area.

The Mid-America Regional Council has created a website dedicated to Kansas City’s TIGER Grant program. It’s a great resource if you’re interested in how the funds are being spent and to track the program’s progress, which has already resulted in some pretty amazing transformations.

“Watching the progress of Green Impact Zone solutions unfold in Kansas City demonstrates how profoundly these projects can transform a community,” says Secretary LaHood in his blog.

Similar projects are transforming communities all across the country. We still have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging to see progress. Are there projects in your community funded by TIGER? We’d love to hear from you!

Photo via Mid-America Regional Council  (marc.org/tiger)