Federal funding is incredibly important to the city for transit, traffic control and signals, pavement resurfacing, safe routes to school and bicycle/pedestrian facilities and, honestly for the city and state’s tourism.
But the most recent federal budget “blueprint” proposal from the President would make massive cuts to transportation infrastructure spending, and completely do away with the TIGER grant program. We urge Congress to put it back into the FY18 federal budget.
Eliminates funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Further, DOT’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits. This grant program is authorized at an annual average of $900 million through 2020.
The proposed budget makes short-term cuts at the expense of long-term gains.
The first TIGER Grant awarded in 2010 created Schuylkill banks Boardwalk, which is one of the city’s premier biking and walking spots along the Schuylkill River. It was one of 10 trail projects handed out to Camden and Philly in 2010, which also included the Connector bridge, creating an above-grade way to travel to and from the Schuylkill River from the Center City to complement the two at-grade crossings.
And from the perspective of being efficient, this proposal isn’t good.
TIGER essentially replaced federal earmarks. Before this program, anyone who wanted federal funding for their projects had to ask their congressperson or senator. Earmarks were approved and disapproved according to clout, and political compromise.
Such a system literally funded a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.
Now, projects compete on a level playing field and are chosen based on the merit of the benefits they provide to the community and the nation. No more bridges to nowhere.
Instead, we’ve got the Schuylkill Bank Boardwalk—a pedestrian and cyclist bridge that is used by hundreds and sometimes thousands of people every day and has become the new iconic showcase infrastructure for the City of Philadelphia and the region.
TIGER arguably funds better projects than earmarks through a more transparent process. Eliminating it saves the nation little and denies municipalities and transportation entities an important source of grant funding to build transformational projects.