Thursday, September 07, 2017

Federal transportation program lives on to help small, rural projects; Trump wants to end it

TIGER improved US 491 in New Mexico. The road was once called the "Devil's Highway" due to its former number (US 666) and the frequent fatalities caused by safety hazards. (Indian Country Today photo by Alysa Landry)
The popular federal program TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) may be endangered, but it's open for now. "State and local governments will have a chance in the coming weeks to vie for a portion of $500 million in federal transportation funding through a popular grant program that President Trump has called for eliminating," Bill Lucia reports for Route Fifty. Congress allocated funds for the program in May; money will be available through Sept. 30, 2020, but the Transportation Department told Lucia that it plans to award all of the available funds in this round of funding.

The office said "special consideration" will be given to certain rural projects that "'emphasize improved access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation' for rural communities—and particularly projects in these places that might address public health and safety and boost economic growth and competitiveness," Lucia reports. Grants generally must be between $5 million and $25 million, but rural projects have a minimum price tag of $1 million. The deadline to apply is Oct. 16.

Congress and the Obama administration created TIGER during the Great Recession to boost the economy. During eight previous rounds of funding, the DOT has awarded $5.1 billion in grants. Trump's justification for ending it is that it funds projects that only benefit localities, not states or regions. "Congressional appropriators in the House and Senate have taken different positions on whether to fund TIGER grants in fiscal year 2018,." Lucia reports. "A House appropriations bill that covers transportation does not include money for the grants. But a Senate bill provides $550 million. A similar dynamic has played out in prior years where the House proposes slashing the program, the Senate backs funding, and ultimately money gets allocated for the grants."

No comments: