TIGER Is Trump’s Program Now: Most Grants Go to Highways

TIGER funds will help build Nebraska's Lincoln South Beltway, including this interchange. Graphic: Nebraska DOT
TIGER funds will help build Nebraska's Lincoln South Beltway, including this interchange. Graphic: Nebraska DOT

Well, U.S. DOT has released the full list of new TIGER grant awards, and it looks a lot worse than the early announcements suggested. The Trump administration’s selections are skewed heavily toward highways and bridges.

While a few strong projects for walking, biking, and transit did receive funds, the overall list is a major departure from the multi-modal priorities of the Obama years. It’s a predictable outcome from a discretionary grant program subject to the whims of whoever occupies the White House, but it still stings.

Only 3.8 percent of the funds will support transit projects, and another 18 percent will go toward walking and biking improvements, while nearly 60 percent will go toward highways and bridges, according to our review of the project list.

TIGER always included a chunk of money for roads — often for bridge maintenance — but the Trump DOT changed the funding mix in a big way. Previous rounds of TIGER grants allocated about 15-30 percent of the total to transit, a quarter to walking and biking projects, and less than half to roads and bridges. (Freight projects, which don’t always fit neatly into these categories, also received a significant share, which remains the case under Trump.)

This year, TIGER funds will pay for new freeways in Nebraska and Modesto, California. Grants like $12.6 million for bus rapid transit in Atlanta and $7.6 million for a complete streets project in Carson City are the exceptions, not the norm. A grab bag of flyovers and road widenings fill out the list.

U.S. DOT brags in its press release that “64% of this round of TIGER funding was awarded to rural projects, a historic number that demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to supporting the country’s rural communities.” That overstates the situation, notes Transportation for America, since DOT is counting mid-sized cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, as “rural.”

But there’s no doubt that TIGER is Trump’s program now. While the White House doesn’t have the authority to kill TIGER, it doesn’t have to. The Trump DOT can just remake the program along its own priorities. And this round of grants says loud and clear that under this administration, projects like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or the removal of Rochester’s Inner Loop freeway will be an afterthought.

  • TakeFive

    If changing the mix becomes a good reason to retain TIGER then it’s a good thing.

    Following things more west of the Mississippi many cities benefited yugely from Obama era transit funding. And not just the expected west coast cities but places like the Twin Cities, Dallas/Houston, Denver and Fort Collins, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Carson City, Phoenix and Tucson etc.

    It’s also important to point out that projects built during the ‘Obama Era’ were constructed at post-recession lower costs. Once Denver finishes its last 3-mile piece receiving grant money in 2019 they will have built nearly a 100 miles of rail transit at $58 million (all-in costs) per mile. Phoenix built 26 miles of nice urban light rail for $70 million per mile. In Denver if they were to start today the costs would be double.

  • TakeFive

    With my rural roots I’m all for investing where everybody’s daily bread starts its daily trip to the Big Cities.

    While Lincoln may be the state’s capitol and center for their agribusiness, Nebraska is definitely rural, so much so that Koch Bros largely ignore the state in favor of Minnesota, Kansas and Oklahoma.

    Indian Reservations usually get a slice and the Ute Mountain Utes in SW Colorado are very rural.

    The SR 189 Flyovers are in Raul Grijalva’s House district and he was delighted to tout its funding. Worth noting is that Nogales welcomed new expansion of Mariposa Port of Entry in 2014 thanks to Obama ARRA funding. It’s the 4th busiest land port in the southwest and now the most efficient and state-of-the-art in the nation. Trade through Mariposa funnels an estimated $26 billion of economic activity between both countries.

  • 1980Gardener

    60% for highways and bridges seems to be a reasonable amount given the predominance of that form of transportation. In fact, 60% is low in light of the number of people who use highways and bridges.

    The bigger concern for me is the type of highway and bridge projects chosen, such as that amazing interchange.

  • AnoNYC

    Walking, biking, and public transportation infrastructure need additional subsidies for the 21st century. We’ve already had 100 years of federal highway force feeding.

    Most Americans drive today because so much public money was invested into highways and automotive infrastructure at the expense of other modes. How about some options going forward?

  • Jason

    Driving is the predominant mode of transportation because it’s the predominant type of infrastructure we build. This isn’t a particularly hard idea to get your head around–people use what’s there.

    https://www.danielbowen.com/2018/02/05/transport-is-supply-led/

  • 1980Gardener

    no kidding…

  • 1980Gardener

    The TIGER grants are funding other options.

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    That is just the share for TIGER grants. You need to look at the share for all federal transportation funding.

  • Sam Schwartz

    Angie,

    Glad you corrected the earlier story which was very misleading. The list of projects looks like the clock has been turned back to the 1950’s. Highways, highways, highways and a little bit to other modes.

  • 1980Gardener

    My comment spoke only to TIGER grants.

  • Jack Jackson

    Federal funds going to interstate commerce instead of 2 mile pedestrian walkways and 6 mile light rail. It’s about time.

  • Well, then your comment isn’t relevant.

  • 1980Gardener

    How is a comment about TIGER grants to an article about the TIGER program not relevant?

  • Because you’re complaining about total funding ratios when considering only a small fraction of funding.

  • 1980Gardener

    I’m actually not complaining about anything. I think the ratios are fine.

    Moreover, my comment spoke to exactly the topic of the article. Anything else would have been off-topic. Is there some point to your comments?

  • kev4321

    You mean international commerce. Highway projects are for the purpose of promoting automobiles and fossil fuel use. Highways are built by multinational corporations. Automobiles are mostly imported and so is oil for fossil fuels. The interstate commerce part is for the banking cartel and the auto loan credit bubble.

  • You can define complaining however you want, but your comment explicitly stated you felt that 60% was low given mode share. Your comment: “… In fact, 60% is low in light of the number of people who use highways and bridges.”

    So, don’t try to bullshit people.

  • 1980Gardener

    If you try to invent people complaining, just to give yourself something to complain about, then please don’t continue to waste time on here. This should be a discussion of real and important issues, not a place for trolls. If you have any meaningful thoughts to offer, then wonderful. If you are here only to troll people, then please don’t waste my time.

  • Richard Bullington

    Look at the enormous urban concentration that this interchange serves! How could it have taken so long for Nebraska DOT finally to serve all those people and businesses surrounding it? This is a disgrace for the Nebraska legislature; this interchange should have been completed 30 years ago!

  • Margaret Manzi

    It’s nice to have bike and walking paths, updated transit and all, but reports of bridges at imminent risk of failure all over the country suggest bridge repairs are urgently needed, and may save lives.

  • You’re the only one trolling here.

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