New Analysis: Major Cities Still Shortchanged by Transportation Stimulus

The Obama administration's awarding of $1.5 billion in competitive transportation stimulus grants on Wednesday sparked elation in cities such as Kansas City and New Orleans. But those celebrations were more than just anecdotal evidence of the so-called TIGER program's urban impact, according to a new analysis from the Brookings Institution's Rob Puentes.

ARRA_metro2.JPG(Chart: The Avenue)

Writing on The New Republic's Avenue blog, Puentes notes that the nation's top 100 metro areas -- which collectively generate three-quarters of U.S. GDP, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- got more than 70 percent of the total TIGER funding.

Meanwhile, the stimulus law's $48 billion in formula-based transportation spending continues to give disproportionately short shrift to major cities.

Puentes found that as of the end of 2009, the top 100 U.S. metro areas had received about 59 percent of total infrastructure stimulus spending. That number masks a greater urban-rural imbalance in highway stimulus money, just 50 percent of which went to America's biggest -- and often, most economically productive -- cities. (See the chart above for more details.)

A July analysis by Streetsblog Capitol Hill reached a similar conclusion, focusing on the top 20 U.S. cities and finding them getting 28 percent of the $787 billion stimulus law's highway money, compared with 61 percent of its transit funding.

So what can be done to help give major cities a share of infrastructure recovery aid that's commensurate with the scale of their economic needs? For Puentes, the answer is simple: Use TIGER as a model:

As Washington considers the additional steps needs to retain and create jobs, the TIGER’s recognition of the economic primacy of U.S. metropolitan area should be illustrative.