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Federal Stimulus

One More Reason to Dig TIGER: Transit and Roads on the Same Footing

Being D.C.-bound, Streetsblog Capitol Hill could only watch with interest as the U.S. DOT kicked off a transportation "listening tour" this week with four senior lawmakers in Minnesota, which has become a transit hotspot of late with the imminent construction of a new light rail line.

USDOT_Tiger___Recovery.jpg(Logo: U.S. DOT)

But a helpful source has passed along one big highlight from the Minnesota event.

When an audience member asked assistant transportation secretary Polly Trottenberg if all modes of transport could be evaluated using one cost-effectiveness standard -- remember, that's the benchmark that the Obama adminstration has knocked down from its once-prime perch when it comes to transit funding decisions -- Trottenberg replied, "We're doing exactly that with TIGER."

TIGER, short for Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery, is the stimulus law's $1.5 billion grant program aimed at funding projects based on merit alone, with roads, transit, ports and bike-ped all in the same mix.

Obama advisers have touted TIGER as a first step towards an impartial system of federal transport funding, without politically skewed formulas that benefit roads at the expense of transit. But Trottenberg's comment is the first public indication that the same standard is truly being applied inside the administration as an estimated $57 billion in TIGER applications vie for a small slice of the pie.

The White House is throwing its weight behind a new infusion for the TIGER program as the Senate crafts a new job-creation bill, expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

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