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TIGER Is Trump’s Program Now: Most Grants Go to Highways

1:18 PM EDT on March 14, 2018

Well, U.S. DOT has released the full list of new TIGER grant awards, and it looks a lot worse than the early announcements suggested. The Trump administration's selections are skewed heavily toward highways and bridges.

While a few strong projects for walking, biking, and transit did receive funds, the overall list is a major departure from the multi-modal priorities of the Obama years. It's a predictable outcome from a discretionary grant program subject to the whims of whoever occupies the White House, but it still stings.

Only 3.8 percent of the funds will support transit projects, and another 18 percent will go toward walking and biking improvements, while nearly 60 percent will go toward highways and bridges, according to our review of the project list.

TIGER always included a chunk of money for roads -- often for bridge maintenance -- but the Trump DOT changed the funding mix in a big way. Previous rounds of TIGER grants allocated about 15-30 percent of the total to transit, a quarter to walking and biking projects, and less than half to roads and bridges. (Freight projects, which don't always fit neatly into these categories, also received a significant share, which remains the case under Trump.)

This year, TIGER funds will pay for new freeways in Nebraska and Modesto, California. Grants like $12.6 million for bus rapid transit in Atlanta and $7.6 million for a complete streets project in Carson City are the exceptions, not the norm. A grab bag of flyovers and road widenings fill out the list.

U.S. DOT brags in its press release that "64% of this round of TIGER funding was awarded to rural projects, a historic number that demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to supporting the country’s rural communities." That overstates the situation, notes Transportation for America, since DOT is counting mid-sized cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, as "rural."

But there's no doubt that TIGER is Trump's program now. While the White House doesn't have the authority to kill TIGER, it doesn't have to. The Trump DOT can just remake the program along its own priorities. And this round of grants says loud and clear that under this administration, projects like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or the removal of Rochester's Inner Loop freeway will be an afterthought.

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