Senate Committee Moves to Eliminate TIGER Program in Next Transpo Bill

Normal, Illinois, transformed its downtown and improved its transportation options thanks to a TIGER grant. Photo: ##http://t4america.org/maps-tools/local-successes/normal/##Transportation for America##
A TIGER grant helped Normal, Illinois, create a more walkable downtown and new transit hub. Photo: Transportation for America

The Republican-controlled Senate is poised to eliminate the TIGER program, one of the few sources of federal funds that cities can access directly to improve streets and transit.

While the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s outline for its portion of a six-year bill was a marginal improvement on the status quo, the Commerce Committee’s portion, known as the rail and safety title, may wipe out a program with a proven track record of success. The committee plans to pass the bill tomorrow morning and send it to the full Senate.

The worst aspect is the elimination of the TIGER grant program, which in its 7-year history has provided funding for multi-modal projects that found little support from other federal programs. By working directly with cities and regional agencies, TIGER bypassed state DOTs more interested in big highway projects than enhancing transit, biking, and walking options.

The Commerce Committee cynically says its plan “formally authorizes the TIGER transportation grants program,” merely “refocusing” it on freight infrastructure. TIGER has always been a boon to freight projects that had trouble accessing federal dollars, but it has also funded projects to make streets safer, heal scars left by urban highways, and improve transit service. The committee can’t take eligibility away from those types of projects and still call the program “TIGER.”

And in fact, it’s not: While the press release says the committee is authorizing TIGER, TIGER appears nowhere in the bill text [PDF]. What takes its place is a freight investment grant program, authorized with TIGER’s full $500 million.

The new freight program does prioritize multimodal projects, but as Steve Davis of Transportation for America says, “that shouldn’t happen at the expense of TIGER.”

“We need more transportation dollars, not fewer, awarded competitively on the merits to the best projects,” Davis adds.

The day after the Commerce Committee released its proposal, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill to authorize TIGER in its current form. Murray was an architect of the TIGER grant program and has long been one of its staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill.

T4A is urging supporters to contact their representatives today and get TIGER restored in the Senate bill.

  • Alex Brideau III

    “The committee can’t take eligibility away from those types of projects and still call the program ‘TIGER.'”

    I feel kinda dumb for asking, but why not? Does it have something to do with what the “TIGER” acronym stands for? Can you remind me of the full name? It’s not mentioned in the article.

  • milliontown

    Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. It was started six years ago, as a a part of the stimulus of 2009.

  • If by “investing in freight” they mean throwing money at the railroads, those improvements should be done with an understanding that they must also provide increased access for transit rail too.

  • SFnative74

    If – and it’s a big IF – the freight improvements meant focusing on increasing the use of rail in place of trucks for moving freight, then that is a worthwhile investment as it is far more energy efficient and could get a huge number of trucks off our roadways. Large rucks damage roadways, add to congestion, and are a safety hazard, especially in our towns and cities. That investment in rail should not come at the expense of TIGER though.

  • Brent Hugh

    Also, just the general fact that this would be a completely new/different program and in no real way a continuation of the existing TIGER program.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

After Big Push From Mayors, TIGER in Line For Slight Funding Boost

|
There’s good news out of the Senate committee responsible for doling out transportation funds. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee okayed a small increase in TIGER funding, according to Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America. TIGER is the program that allows local governments to compete directly for transportation funds, circumventing state DOTs, and helps get a […]

GOP Appropriations Bill Would Turn TIGER Into a Roads Program

|
As the president’s transportation proposal fades from the news cycle and we eagerly await the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s six-year reauthorization bill, here comes the House Republicans’ proposed budget for transportation and housing for next year. Note: What the House GOP released yesterday wasn’t an authorization bill but an appropriations bill for 2015. […]

Senate Preserves TIGER Program While House Punts on Long-Term Bill

|
Advocates successfully mobilized to prevent the Senate from eliminating the multi-modal TIGER grant program in its long-term transportation bill, but that bill appears to be on hold for at least another five months after the House passed another short-term extension of the current law. Transportation for America reports that Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune […]

House Appropriators Leave TIGER, HSR Out of Next Year’s Budget

|
It’s always confusing when, in the middle of endless bicameral hand-wringing about transportation spending, the House Appropriations Committee puts out a budget for transportation without much ado. That’s what they did today. The Transportation and HUD Subcommittee will vote tomorrow on its draft budget, released today, in preparation to send it to the full Appropriations Committee. The […]

House Bill Proposes to Slash TIGER Funding

|
Federal lawmakers are running out of time to come up with a long-term transportation funding solution by May 31, when the current bill expires. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee has released a budget for FY 2016, which begins in October, that proposes to drastically reduce funds for projects that promote walking and biking. The budget proposal calls for keeping transit and highway funding […]