Trump administration snubs urban projects in TIGER grants

Staff and wire report


Forget about bike-share stations in Chicago or pedestrian walkways in Oakland. That's so Obama-era.

In the Trump administration, a popular $500 million transportation grant program is focused more on projects in rural areas that turned out for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. That means more road and rail projects in GOP strongholds such as Idaho, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, and fewer "greenways," ''complete streets" and bike lanes.

The latest round of these grants has nothing for New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago. Money in those Democratic heavy states went instead to projects in Trump-friendly regions: repainting a bridge in New York's North Country, contributing to a highway project in Modesto, California, and upgrading an interstate highway in southern Illinois.

It's a refocusing from the priorities of the previous administration, which gave most of these TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants to urban areas represented by President Barack Obama's Democratic allies on Capitol Hill.

"More than 64 percent 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," the Transportation Department said in a release announcing the grants last month.

"I was very pleased," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, when asked about the focus on rural areas. Maine won $10.8 million to help repair three rural bridges on routes critical to the state's timber industry.

The program was established under Obama's 2009 economic recovery bill. The grants, distributed at the discretion of the administration, are just a small fraction of the overall federal transportation dollars when compared with more than $50 billion distributed annually to states by formula from the highway trust fund.

In the latest round of funding announced last month, a $10.3 million TIGER grant request for Youngstown to make major improvements in the downtown and Fifth Avenue area near Youngstown State University was rejected.

Trump has twice targeted the grant program for elimination, only to sign a huge spending bill into law last month that tripled its budget to $1.5 billion.

Questions arose during the Obama administration about political favoritism when grants consistently went in greater numbers to congressional districts represented by Democrats. For example, in 2013, about two-thirds of TIGER money was awarded to such districts.

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