The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded 52 transportation grants for urban and rural projects totaling $474 million, the agency announced this week. The grants are from the TIGER program, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
The largest award is a $20 million grant to Kansas City, Mo., to help pay for a light rail streetcar system downtown.
Some grants are for highways and bridges. Arkansas, for example, will get $5 million for Highway 92 repairs and bridge replacements while Mississippi gets $4.25 million to rehabilitate the Interstate 20 bridge.
The majority of grants are for transit, local rail projects and intermodal improvements, however. Indianapolis will get a $10 million boost for electric buses, the port of Houston will receive $10 million to extend its wharf, and Colorado will get $10 million for a fire suppression system for the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel.
Funding for TIGER grants, which are awarded at the DOT’s discretion, comes from the general treasury and not the Highway Trust Fund.
The TIGER era began in 2009 with the big “stimulus bill” known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It coincided with a congressional ban on earmarks.
The U.S. House of Representatives has consistently cut funding for TIGER in its budget proposals while the Senate has typically opted to fund the program each year.
The latest $474 million is down a bit from the 2010 version of TIGER which was $600 million.
OOIDA would like to see more discretionary funds go to roads and bridges.
“It’s general funding and not from the Highway Trust Fund, but it’s still federal tax money and it’s still a significant amount of money for the DOT to issue as it wants to,” says Ryan Bowley, director of government affairs for OOIDA.
“We had a bridge collapse in Washington state, and we had one in Minnesota a few years ago, and it would be nice to see the DOT award more money for these things,” Bowley said. “There are worthy projects, certainly, but a lot of projects that are traditionally funded by city and local dollars are being funded by the federal government. At the very least, the projects should have a national benefit.”
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