Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TIGER Grants Announced with a Roar

On the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or the "stimulus" bill), DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced the 51 winners of its $1.5 billion in ARRA-backed TIGER grants today (Feb. 17). Don't go looking in the Federal Register for this news....the announcement was the Secretary's "Fast Lane" blog, along with a PDF listing of the winners' profiles.

In keeping with ARRA, all the grants are for transportation capital projects, with an emphasis on construction and refurbishment of infrastructure. It's clear from the list of winners that preferred projects in this program were multimodal in nature. As you can see from the list of projects, another clear aspect under TIGER was the significant use of non-federal funds in these projects. Less clear is where the sponsoring state and local governments will be able to find their share of project costs, given the current state of public finance.

Given the emphasis on multimodality, it's hard, and a bit inappropriate, to classify specific TIGER projects as being "transit" or "rail" or "highway" in nature. For example, even the $10.0 million awarded to the South Dakota DOT for a highway project makes reference to improved access for local tribal transit services. However, 21 of the projects, accounting for $768 million of the awarded funds, have some kind of transit aspect. These include streetcar/light rail projects in Detroit, New Orleans, Dallas, Tucson and Portland Ore., and bus rapid transit projects in Las Vegas and Denver. Numerous facilities, ranging from $83 million in New York City to $8 million in Ames, IA, are included in the mix.

For human services accessibility, universal design, and complete streets, some champion projects were named in places as diverse as Dubuque, Kansas City and Seattle. Showing the extent of multimodal thinking, the award to Tulsa would help create prospective transit-oriented development, well in advance of the usual rail or BRT catalysts for TOD. The largest-scale bus-oriented award - $58.8 million - is for "priority bus transit" projects in the Washington DC area.

Aside from the TIGER awards to DC, New York, and Tucson, other large-scale TIGER awards included $100.0 million for the "CREATE" rail improvements in Chicago, $105 million for rail freight projects in Memphis and Birmingham, and $55.5 million in commuter rail expansion beyond Fitchburg, Mass.

While the winners get the glory, and the money, LaHood and numerous other bloggers have noted that there were many, many projects, some with considerable merit, that were not funded under TIGER. As LaHood said in his announcement, "DOT received more than 1,400 applications seeking more than $60 billion in support" for these funds. With TIGER projects spanning the country from Maine to Alaska, every region got something in this tight competition. As some are beginning to note, there are some conspicuous absences in TIGER grants: No projects whatsoever in Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Utah, Delaware, New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Dakota or Idaho.

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