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TIGER Grants reflect shift in Federal transportation focus

Normal, Illinois

Normal, Illinois Multimodal Facility received Federal TIGER funding.

New Urban News looks at the recent release of federal transportation funds and the change in focus away from highways and towards livable streets.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been talking about “livability” — designing places and transportation systems for transit and walking as well as for car travel. In January he announced that economic development, environmental benefits, and other livability criteria would factor into DOT funding along with the traditional yardsticks of cost and congestion.

The TIGER program is small [$5 billion] relative to overall US transportation spending. The most recent five-year surface transportation authorization amounted to $244 billion, of which about 79 percent went to highways. The breakdown for TIGER was far different: 23 percent highways, 26 percent transit, 25 percent freight rail, 7 percent port, and 19 percent multimodal/other.

Related, in The New Republic, the Brookings Institution’s Robert Puentes points to why transportation funding should be disproportionately targeted to metropolitan areas rather than spread around the country equally, as has been the goal of transportation funding in the past.

Because our 100 largest metropolitan areas harbor two-thirds of our population and generate 75 percent of our gross domestic product, it makes sense to leverage that economic might when making infrastructure decisions. Metropolitan areas are agglomerations of innovation and human capital. Metros offer more sustainable development patterns, which are supported by a range of transportation and infrastructure choices. In that regard, metropolitan areas are also where 72 percent of the seaport tonnage arrives and departs; where 78 percent of our interstate miles are travelled; where 92 percent of air passengers and transit miles are ridden, and where 93 percent of rail passengers board.

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