Touting TIGER's Benefits
Until a new THUD spending bill passes for FY 2018, the TIGER grant program — Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — continues to be funded based on FY 2017 funding levels.
For now, the TIGER FY2017 Notice of Funding Opportunity was just announced, which means our nation's communities still have access to federal funding for their infrastructure projects this fiscal year.
In honor of the TIGER FY2017 Notice of Funding Opportunity, APA reached out to TIGER awardees who were recently granted funding and asked them how important TIGER is to their communities, and how funds can benefit localities across the country. Here is what they told us:
Connecting Communities is both the overall goal and the actual name of the project that received TIGER funding during the 2016 round in Brownsville, Texas. This project is primarily an investment in transportation infrastructure and multimodal services to accommodate population growth in the area. By increasing the reliability and viability of all existing transportation methods in the area, Brownsville intends to improve the quality of life, health, and economic opportunity in the impoverished Lower Rio Grande Valley region.
Connecting Communities will expand services in a growing region with proportionally lower income, poorer health, and lower educational attainment — providing a mobility ladder of opportunity for both urbanized and rural populations.
The State Route 347 Grade Separation Project received $15 million in TIGER funds to create a four-lane highway overpass over a double track rail line to connect two sections of the city.
Before construction of the overpass, rail traffic split the city into two parts, resulting in staggering delays and an increase in car accidents. The at-grade tracks limited residents' access to schools, emergency services, and other neighborhoods. The new overpass has created a stronger, more connected community with safer and more efficient rail and car travel.
Rectifying the water infrastructure issues in Flint is a major priority for the community, and the TIGER funding the city received in 2016 allows Flint to fix its underlying water transmission lines project (through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund) at the same time it uses TIGER grants to repair the above-ground infrastructure on some of the most utilized streets — Saginaw, Atherton, and Dupont.
The comprehensive approach to synchronize both projects allows the community to deliver safe drinking water and safe transportation methods for its residents while cutting total time spent on construction.
The TIGER funds are specifically aimed to diversify the modes of transportation available to Flint residents. The upgrades to the pedestrian walkways, updates to the timing of traffic signals, and the provision of dedicated bicycle facilities all help to increase mobility and expand access to opportunities to a community with more than 41 percent of its citizens living below the poverty line.
TIGER's Road Ahead
The TIGER program has been placed on the chopping block throughout the budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2018). At this point in the budget process for FY 2018, the House's THUD spending bill and the administration's budget have both proposed the elimination of TIGER, while the Senate has approved a TIGER funding increase in its proposal.
Despite what these proposals seem to suggest, TIGER remains a widely popular program for cities and states, which is why representatives on both sides of the aisle have expressed their concerns to the administration. The debate over budget decisions for FY 2018 will rage on until December 8, now that a new budget deadline deal has been approved by Congress.
Show Support for TIGER
Recognition of the value of TIGER by representatives on both sides of the aisle has led to the provision of TIGER grants for seven years in localities nationwide. APA will continue to work with partners in Washington to ensure that competitive grant programs like TIGER aimed at creating stronger, more prosperous, and just communities remain sufficiently funded.
We challenge planners to continue showing their support for critical planning programs during the long and contentious budget process. Visit APA's Legislative Action Center to take action and influence legislation important for planning.
Top image: Water tower in Flint, Michigan. Photo by Flickr user George Thomas (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).