Trump Turns Obama-Era Program into a Road Fund

Graph:  Jeff Davis/Eno Transportation
Graph: Jeff Davis/Eno Transportation

The Trump administration has cemented its dismantling of a progressive, Obama-era transportation grant program by turning it into just another highway program.

The change is more than the program’s name, which shifts from Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) to Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD). Beneath the name change is a round of grants that reveal that the new focus of the federal program is road projects instead of a mix of driving, walking, biking and transit projects.

President Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
President Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Mostly, BUILD is allocating money to small highway projects in rural locations. Indeed, about 70 percent of the money went to roads and bridges. Transit only got 11 percent, as shown in the chart at the top of this page created by Jeff Davis at Eno Transportation Weekly

Eleven percent is even less than the federal government allocates to transit from gas tax revenues. Back in 2013, Obama’s TIGER program supported transit and road projects at an almost equal level. And biking got $142 million.

The BUILD list did include a couple of bright spots: Youngstown, Ohio will get $11 million to overhaul downtown streets for walkability and green infrastructure. And Oklahoma City will get $14 million for a bus rapid transit project connecting downtown to the northeast side of the city.

U.S. DOT"s map of BUILD grant awardees. Urban shown in yellow, rural in green. Map: U.S. DOT
U.S. DOT’s map of BUILD grant awardees. Urban shown in yellow, rural in green. Map: U.S. DOT

But the devolution of this grant program toward rural highway funding is extra painful because rural areas and highways are supported by numerous federal programs, including the bulk for formula funding sent to states. TIGER was unique in that it provided something lacking: funding for projects that offered alternatives to driving, projects like the Indianapolis Trail and complete streets in notoriously dangerous Lee County, Fla.

But now it’s just another tool of the Trump Administration’s war on transit.

20 thoughts on Trump Turns Obama-Era Program into a Road Fund

  1. It’s fair to say that Pres Obama was very kind to multimodal projects but elections have consequences and things can change.

    Awards made to Colorado are for worthy projects. “Rural” is a bit of a misnomer as I-25 is a critical freight corridor between Denver and the urbanizing cities to the north who out of desperation added their own funding. Western Slope ‘rural’ resort ski-towns are very dense places and most already have some of the best transit/biking found anywhere.

  2. That little yellow dot way up north is for an elevated interchange to the tune of a quarter billion dollars to be built in Outdoor Magazine’s best outdoor adventure city of the year im 2014, Duluth.

    https://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/twin-ports-interchange/index.html

    This is in an area of negative population growth,

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_County_(Wisconsin)
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duluth_(Minnesota)
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_County_(Minnesota)

    a community who prides themselves on being environmentalists, next to a Great Lake feeling the stresses of global warming

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/science/lake-superior-algae-toxic.html

    and has an extensive network of rail linking it to the Twin Cities Metro and points beyond and a proposed high-speed link to connect the area to the metro which will not be built due to lack of federal funding.

    https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/4232078-2017s-biggest-hurdle-proposed-northern-lights-express-federal-funding

    The cost which makes this rail line impossible? Half a billion.

    In summary: We can have two mini interchanges splitting up urban areas and poisoning the people and environment around it or we can have an express train running half way across the state eight times a day for the same price. We, as a country, chose the former.

  3. Why is this news? The people who voted for Trump, by and large, want this just as the people who voted for Obama wanted multimodal and active transpo. It’s not exactly surprising. Perhaps if the Dems wouldn’t have rammed through a fatally flawed candidate (>Her), this wouldn’t be happening. I know this doesn’t exactly play with the base, but Obama was elected because he presented himself as a centrist. Ditto WJC. Even so, the misnamed “Progressive” movement careens to the left like a drunk driving a city bus. Get ready for more highways, or suck it up and figure out how to appeal to more Americans in places other than California and the Northeast.

  4. Because the nation is going bankrupt. There are few economic returns for funneling money into rural highways. It’s not good conservative policy when we must invest tax revenue more wisely to avoid mounting debt.

  5. Assuming Trump doesn’t run (which I do) who do suspect will be the Republican candidate? Simpleman is correct that it will take more than Dems winning the Left Coast and the NE.

  6. The country has been going ‘bankrupt’ for a hundred years.

    You seem to have little appreciation for your own daily bread or the economic impact of agriculture and natural resources.

  7. Trump will run, unless he dies in office beforehand. He won in 2016 due to a series of hard-to-repeat flukes.

  8. Most rural highways in genuine farm country see fewer than a car a minute, totaling both directions’ traffic.

    Agland as a rule is extremely sparsely populated, and as a result the lane miles per person are much higher than in urban areas, even including all the neighborhood streets.

    It gets so ludicrous in Texas that there are four lane divided “Farm To Market” highways.

  9. Meanwhile Madison sits with a transit ridership of 9%, a bus garage that has a capacity of 160 buses when we have 200 and people screaming for weekend service, more routes, a BRT, and more frequency and we can’t get funding after 5 years of trying.

    We have a better hope of me winning the lottery and donating it to Metro!

  10. There’s no way anyone else can beat Trump in the Republican primary. He’s running.

    And any Democrat can beat him.

  11. Yeah, that would be the Electoral College’s fault. It needs to be abolished. Support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

  12. Remember, Trump lost the popular vote. He’s actually less popular than when he was elected. And young people *really really hate him*. Four years of old people dying and young people turning 18, and he’s trying to alienate even *more* groups of people…. he doesn’t really have a chance in the next general election unless he steals it.

    And the Republicans have no way of nominating someone else who can win the primary, because anti-Trump Republicans gave up on the party, and the internal rules were changed under GWB to prevent an insurgency and allow the President to control the NRC. The party is a Trump cult now.

  13. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-losing-support-of-americas-millionaires-even-republicans-poll-finds-2018-12-23

    Just 34% of America’s millionaires — including just 62% of Republican millionaires — would vote to re-elect Trump, CNBC reported Sunday as part of its twice-a-year Millionaire Survey. That’s down sharply from the 45% of millionaires who said in the 2017 survey that they had voted for Trump in 2016. The latest poll also found that a significant chunk — 20% overall, including 18% of Republicans — don’t even think Trump will be on the 2020 ballot.

  14. Right? What’s the alternative? Ignore all the awful executive changes Trump is making?

    This article wasn’t written because it’s surprising. It was written because it’s IMPORTANT.

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