TIGER Grants Unfunded in Trump’s First Budget Pitch

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The U.S. Department of Transportation grants designed to assist states and municipalities with advancing significant infrastructure projects would be denied funds under President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal unveiled March 16.

The so-called “skinny” budget would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants, a move likely to draw opposition from many of the program’s supporters on Capitol Hill.

The budget request noted those infrastructure and freight projects would be “eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs.” Congress approved $500 million for the TIGER program in fiscal 2016.

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Proponents emphasize the progress achieved with the additional funding. Since 2009, DOT distributed $5.1 billion in TIGER grants for 421 projects. State and municipal officials utilized the grants for financing small rural projects and large-scale highway expansions aimed at promoting commerce. Recent grant recipients included the Little Rock Port Authority, a freight mobility project along U.S. 169 in Scott County, Minnesota, and a freight rail project in South Carolina.

“The program has been very successful,” Robert Puentes, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, told Transport Topics. “I think what that program did is start to make folks on the ground think differently about the investments they would want to make and gave them a new pathway for certain types of investments by encouraging to link up with all kinds of partners and reach across jurisdictional boundaries.”

Several Republicans on Capitol Hill and transportation observers critical of TIGER argued its allocation process became politicized.

“There have been grants made out of that program that I don’t think could possibly have survived a serious cost-benefit analysis,” Jim Burnley, President Reagan’s Secretary of Transportation, told Transport Topics this week. “They were driven by political considerations.”