In bacteria, genes are often expressed from multiple promoters to allow for a greater spectrum of regulation. Transcription of rRNA genes in Escherichia coli uses two promoters, rrn P1 and rrn P2. Under the conditions examined previously, the P1 and P2 promoters were regulated in response to many of the same changes in nutritional conditions. We report here that rrn P2 promoters play unique roles in rRNA expression during transitional situations. rrn P2 promoters play a dominant role in rRNA synthesis as cells enter into and persist in stationary phase. rrn P2 promoters also play a role in the rapid increases in rRNA synthesis that occur during outgrowth from stationary phase and during the initial stages of rapid shifts to richer media. We demonstrate that rrnB P2 directly senses the concentrations of guanosine 5'-disphosphate 3'-diphosphate (ppGpp) and the initiating nucleoside triphosphate (iNTP), thereby accounting, at least in part, for the observed patterns of regulation. Our work significantly extends previous information about the regulators responsible for control of the rrn P2 promoters and the relationship between the tandem rRNA promoters.