TIGER II Grants Emphasize Limited Investments in Small and Mid-Size Communities

» After focusing on streetcar grants for big cities earlier in the year, the Department of Transportation takes a step back, providing funds for a number of smaller communities. Three big exceptions: Atlanta, Orlando, and Salt Lake City.

After months of waiting, the U.S. Department of Transportation has finally revealed which projects it will be funding under the TIGER II grant program, a series of discretionary allocations under the direct review of the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. $600 million has been split between dozens of communities across the country; most funding has been allocated to small-scale projects in small and mid-size cities for the purposes of street improvements, the construction of transit centers, and the rehabilitation of freight railway lines.

Of the total funding, 29% went to roads projects, 26% for transit improvements, 20% for railway renovations, 16% for ports, 4% for bike and pedestrian programs, and 5% for planning. Rural communities got a large slice of the financing, taking in $140 million. The grants have clearly been distributed in the interest of promoting geographical equity across the country. A full chart of the grants distributed is included at the end of this article.

The previous TIGER grants, distributed in February, had a unique focus on the development of new or improved transit and rail services in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas and included funding for the renovation of Moynihan Station in New York City, the improvement of the freight rail system in suburban Chicago, and the creation of new streetcar or bus rapid transit lines in Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Tucson, and Washington. This time, a smaller financing pool available meant that many of the most ambitious cities that applied for more than $19 billion in grants simply could not be funded.

Even so, several large projects will move forward thanks to TIGER II. I wrote last week that the decision to allocate $20 million to Los Angeles to leverage $546 million in federal loans for the Crenshaw light rail line was perhaps the most significant of the schemes because it provides a new model for financing large infrastructure projects.

But other programs are also interesting. The biggest single grant, $47 million, went to Atlanta for the creation of a streetcar line between the Centennial Olympic Park downtown and the Martin Luther King, Jr. historic district. This was the first major transit grant allocated to this New South city in several years, but it may not be the ideal investment for this city, which currently has many plans on its plate, including the innovative Beltline project. Salt Lake City received a major allocation for the creation of a 2.1-mile streetcar from the Central Pointe TRAX light rail station to the Sugarhouse business district in South Salt Lake City. This will allow this city to continue its relatively quick expansion of transit provisions. With a TIGER II grant, Orlando will be able to extend its LYMMO bus rapid transit line by 1.9 miles from its current terminus downtown towards an isolated neighborhood on the other side of Interstate 4.

Just as intriguing is the $16 million grant to New Haven, Connecticut for the first phase of its Downtown Crossing project. This will involve the removal of a portion of part of the city’s central city highway for the purposes of reconnecting the street grid. This scheme will be integrated into the development of a streetcar line between downtown and Union Station’s intercity rail services. Two notable projects that received planning grants were New Orleans and New York, both of which are also considering eliminating freeways in dense urban communities (the Claiborne and Sheridan Expressways, respectively). Here, the federal government has for the first time positioned itself clearly on the side of those who believe that is necessary to remediate the pain caused by the imposition of large roadways into neighborhoods during the 20th century, and that’s good news.

Elsewhere, most funding went to the creation of complete streets (in Bridgeport and Peoria, among others); the improvement of freight rail corridors and port facilities (Fort Worth, Maine, Miami, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota); and the improvement or installation of transit centers and stations (Cleveland, Des Moines (shown above), Niagara Falls, Philadelphia)

The TIGER funding comes from the FY 2010 general federal appropriation bill. These are the last of the funds from the 2009 federal stimulus to be distributed to transportation projects.

Major TIGER II Stimulus Projects
(not including road or bridge projects or planning programs)
PlaceProjectTIGER Grant ($m)Total Cost ($m)Description
AtlantaDowntown Streetcar47.772.2New east-west streetcar from Centennial Olympic Park to MLK
Fort WorthTower 553491.2Removal of grade-level freight rail crossing
Salt LakeSugar House Streetcar2655.6Construction of a new streetcar downtown
MiamiPort Rail Access22.846.9Reinstatement of rail cargo system to freight facilities
Los AngelesCrenshaw Line201715Funding to leverage loan on new light rail line
Niagara FallsInternational Railway Station16.525Creation of a new railway station with platforms and signalling
New HavenDowntown Crossing1631.7Removal of downtown highway for reconnection of the street grid
South DakotaMRC Rail Line1621Reconstruction of freight rail line between Mitchell and Chamberlain
Los AngelesWest Basin Railyard16125.8New intermodal railyard, staging tracks
ArkansasNW Arkansas Regional Greenway1538.540-mile bicycle, pedestrian corridor from Fayetteville to Bentonville
PhiladelphiaDilworth Plaza/Concourse1555Rehabilitation fo downtown plaza to improve transit hub areas
North DakotaMinot Bypass14.123Better connections to freight facility
Coos Bay ORCoos Bay Rail Line13.614.6Reconstruction of freight rail line between Eugene and Coos Bay
BridgeportSteel Point Complete Streets11.244.7Reconstruction of streets to include better ped/bike facilities
MaineAroostook Railway Preservation10.529.6Improvements to existing railway
ClevelandUniversity-Cedar Rapid Transit Station10.531.9Renovation of existing rail station
Kansas/ OklahomaGreat Plains Freight Rail10.219.9Relocates rail hub from urban to rural area, improves track
East Bay CAPedestrian and bike network10.243.3Will aid in closing gaps in 200-mile network
MolineQuad Cities Station1021.8New Amtrak station along riverfront
Des MoinesTransit Hub1012.5Constrution of new terminal for transit system (Phase II)
New YorkFordham Transit Plaza1019.5Improvements to inner city public space
PennsylvaniaCentral PA Rail and Road Expansion1052.9Adds track, rehabilitates older track section
OrlandoParramore BRT10106.11.9-mile bus rapid transit route
PeoriaWarehouse District Complete Streets1037.4Creates a complete streets network in downtown area
West Vancouver WAFreight Access1092.9Provides new rail access route to alleviate train congestion
Staples MNStaples Corridor7.79.9Reconstructs crossing to eliminate grade crossing
Chadron NEFreight Rail Reactivation4.96.2Rehabilitates 7.5-mile rail line
Hailey IDWoodside Blvd Complete Street3.54.4Rebuilds 2.4-mile street to include ped/bike access
OregonElectric Vehicle Corridor24.6Provides fast charging stations along I-5 corridor
Waterloo INWaterloo Station Improvements1.81.8Full length platform, additional parking
Moscow IDIntermodal Transit Center1.52.8New transit facility to connect bus services
Fort Valley GAState U Drive Complete Streets1.51.7Small amount of streetscape improvements downtown

Image above: Planned Des Moines Transit Hub, from The Bus Blog – Des Moines, Iowa

11 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Steve Davis

    One small correction: The funds are not coming from the stimulus, but were part of the THUD appropriations bill from last year, I do believe. There’s another $400 million for TIGER in the THUD approps that’s currently stalled in Congress.

  • Patrick M

    The definition of “rural” is interesting. The planning study for the Lexington,NC rail station and multimodal hub is in the center of town, just south of Center St!

    View Larger Map

    For TIGER, “rural” means a small community in terms of population. Lexington is increasingly a bedroom community for Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

  • Steve Davis

    Having lived in Lexington, it’s far more than just a bedroom community for those two metro areas. It’s certainly part of the triad, but has never enjoyed the kind of rampant suburban growth that High Point or Thomasville or other areas much closer to Winston/Greensboro proper have. The direction of growth from Winston isn’t south in any case, it’s more to the west and north of town.

    Lexington is an old furniture town that has been barely growing for a decade or more, struggling to find an identity as the forgotten end of the Piedmont Triad. It’s a classic old school small town with a small historic core that’s been neglected and has lost jobs with the furniture plants shutting down or laying off workers. It’s not sizable by stretch of the imagination, just a few 10s of thousands of people there.

    While there are plenty of people in Lexington who commute to Winston or Greensboro, that has more to do with the availability of jobs in those places than it does with growth in Lexington being driven by those metro areas.

    It’s not a town of 1,000 people, but it’s definitely a rural small town that’s the county seat of a very rural county. (Davidson)

  • orulz

    Any line on when the $2.37 billion in HSIPR FY10 grants will be announced? These are the ones where the applications were due August 6th, requiring a 20% match. The last article here on the subject said that the awards would be announced on September 30th, but nothing yet. Elsewhere I heard that the announcement would be “sometime this fall”.

    • AlanF

      My guess would be next week. The mid-term elections are in 2 weeks, so this week is headlined by Tiger II grants for publicity, and the HSIPR grants would be the announcements next week.

      However, the uncertainty surrounding the mid-terms and the fate of the NJ Transit ARC project likely complicated the behind the scenes selection process. NJ submitted an application for $885 million for improvements to the NEC between NYC and Trenton, with the Portal Bridge replacement project as the only publicly mentioned part of their application. The Portal Bridge replacement is planned to be two bridges, the 3 track high level north bridge which will operationally replace the 100 year old 2 track swing bridge and the 2 track south bridge which is mainly for the tracks running to the ARC tunnels. So if ARC is scrubbed, the south bridge presumably get dropped too. The DOT and FRA may be holding off until they see what Gov. Christie decides this week.

    • orulz

      Looks like HSR grants have been leaked. There are five major grants, and a few smaller planning grants.

      The five major winners are:
      $902m for CA
      $800m for FL
      $236m for IL/IA (QC/IC rail line)
      $150m for MI
      $121m for CT

      which totals up to $2.209 billion.

  • Ocean Railroader

    The last time they said the high speed rail funding was coming out came out three months after the high speed rail funding date.

    As for the high speed rail funding I’m no longer exected about it anymore in that even if Vrginia wins any of it will all 55 million of it will go towards evromental studies and more studies. So I’ve given up on the idea of high speed rail for Vrginia.

  • Thanks for the article on the TIGER II grants. The article regretably omitted the East Bay Regional Park District’s $10 million “green transportation” initiative project award in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our agency is the largest regional park district in the nation covering two large urban counties. The project focuses on providing 200 miles of paved regional trails that will connect 2.4 million residents to public transit hubs for commute and recreation purposes. We think, and obviously the DOT shared our view too, that our green transportation project is worthy of being listed as a “major” awardee! Congratulations to all agencies who will receive funding to improve the quality of life for their residents!

  • Tim Ekren

    Dissappointed that the Feds couldn’t help out Missouri between KC and St. Louis this go around. Missouri DOT had a relatively modest $35 million request along with state and private railroad investment to make more incremental improvements on this corridor. Its within reach to get consistent 90 mph service between two metro areas in the heartland. Instead, more grants to get more trains to Chicago as it seems to be DOT’s mantra for the midwest.

    I for one would support Florida, the desperately needed NJ bridge on the NEC, and array of smaller grants. The kicker is they really need the pipeline to stay open so HSR gets to Miami. Then you will see results.

  • Tim Ekren

    Did I mention that Obama is from Illinois, just as Texas was blessed under Bush you could say the same for Illinois.

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