» Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Fort Worth, and St. Louis each plan streetcar projects. Chicago, New York City, and Stamford will build new downtown bus transitways. Many other cities win bus improvement grants, and Boston wins backing for its bike share.
After months of anticipation, the U.S. Department of Transportation finally announced the winners of $293 million in grants designated for urban bus and streetcar projects. The program has breathed life into the transit programs of a number of cities, though few of the projects are ready for implementation immediately.
The DOT has in several places fulfilled a promise it made months ago: Cities that commit to spending some of their own funds on projects, rather than relying entirely on the federal government, will benefit from federal grants. Other communities that have been less inclined to establish local funding sources for projects did not receive grants today.
The Urban Circulator Grant program was announced by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood last December in a visit to New Orleans. Like the TIGER program, whose first awards were introduced earlier this year, this program represents an effort by the DOT to emphasize transportation that serves to improve the “livability” of communities. That means convenience over speed and service to inner-city neighborhoods over suburban communities. The government has not announced whether more grants will be awarded later; this could be a one-time only allocation.
About $163 million in funds were derived from the Bus and Bus Livability grant programs, a source of funds that has been budgeted in years past.
With $130 million specifically allocated for streetcar projects, the DOT reaffirmed its effort to spread this mode of transportation to cities across the country. Four cities received $24.99 million grants specifically designated for new systems. Politicians in Cincinnati and Charlotte, each of which has dedicated a major source of municipal funds to its respective project, must be celebrating today after years of work. Both cities are likely to have their systems under construction in the next year or so. Fort Worth and St. Louis, whose projects will require a longer timeframe to be completed, also received these awards.
Dallas, which already won a TIGER grant to implement a new downtown streetcar, got $5 million more to extend the McKinney Avenue Trolley, a traditional streetcar system.
Several urban bus circulator projects were also lucky recipients. Chicago received $24.6 million for its Central Area Transitway project, which will connect the Navy Pier and Union Station with dedicated bus lanes. New York’s transformation of 34th Street into a mix between bus transitway and pedestrian mall, received more than $15 million, as did Stamford for the creation of its Urban Transitway, also a bus improvement project.
A panoply of cities received money for intermodal transfer facilities, road upgrades, or pedestrian trails. Projects worth more than a million dollars are listed in the table below.
Perhaps the most unique of the awardees was Boston, which proposes to use federal funds for the creation of a bike share program. It will be the first city to receive direct U.S. government funding for such a system.
A number of cities across the country will be disappointed today; Washington, D.C.’s hope for federal funding to ensure the completion of its first streetcar line, for instance, has come home without money, probably thanks to political squabbling last month. It, along with many others, will have to wait for future aid.
|Major U.S. Urban Circulator Grants
Image above: Map of St. Louis Loop Trolley Proposal, from Loop Trolley