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