The worst aspect is the elimination of the TIGER grant program, which in its 7-year history has provided funding for multi-modal projects that found little support from other federal programs. By working directly with cities and regional agencies, TIGER bypassed state DOTs more interested in big highway projects than enhancing transit, biking, and walking options.
The Commerce Committee cynically says its plan “formally authorizes the TIGER transportation grants program,” merely “refocusing” it on freight infrastructure. TIGER has always been a boon to freight projects that had trouble accessing federal dollars, but it has also funded projects to make streets safer, heal scars left by urban highways, and improve transit service. The committee can’t take eligibility away from those types of projects and still call the program "TIGER."
And in fact, it's not: While the press release says the committee is authorizing TIGER, TIGER appears nowhere in the bill text [PDF]. What takes its place is a freight investment grant program, authorized with TIGER’s full $500 million.
“We need more transportation dollars, not fewer, awarded competitively on the merits to the best projects,” Davis adds.
The day after the Commerce Committee released its proposal, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill to authorize TIGER in its current form. Murray was an architect of the TIGER grant program and has long been one of its staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill.
Tanya became Streetsblog's Capitol Hill editor in September 2010 after covering Congress for Pacifica Radios Washington bureau and for public radio stations around the country. She lives car-free in a transit-oriented and bike-friendly neighborhood of Washington, DC.