Have you ever heard of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER)? Well, it’s into its third round of grants, hence TIGER III. As Part of the Obama Administration’s “We Can’t Wait” Initiative (a ruse he uses to bypass Congress), the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the awarding of “Job-Creating Grants.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that 46 transportation projects will receive a total of $511 million from DOT’s TIGER program. In the previous two rounds, the TIGER program awarded grants to 126 freight, highway, transit, port and bicycle/pedestrian projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. TIGER provides an opportunity for DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives. [emphasis mine] So let’s see just what DOT (and the Obama administration) view as “critical national objectives.”
There is the Chicago “Blue Line and Bikeshare” project that serves critical national objectives. TIGER funds will help complete an overall project to repair 3.6 miles of track on Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Blue Line between Damen Avenue and Belmont Avenue, finishing all track improvements between Chicago’s Downtown Loop and O’Hare International Airport. The “point to point” bikeshare program will allow transit riders, locals, and visitors to take a bike from one location and return it to another at any of the other stations throughout the city, expanding the “first mile” and “last mile” of transit trips. In addition, the bikeshare program supports a sustainable, zero-energy transportation mode. (had to get that green energy plug in!) That one cost us taxpayers $16 million for CTA track repair and $4 million for more bicycles and pick-up/drop-off stations.
Another TIGER project awarded $20 million taxpayer dollars for improvements to I-70 that will “better connect” people in St. Louis with the parkland around the base of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) made the announcement in St. Louis. The money will build a pedestrian land bridge over I-70 connecting the Old Courthouse, Luther Ely Smith Square and the Gateway Arch grounds, providing improved vehicle and pedestrian traffic patterns while facilitating safer access for people. McCaskill opposes earmarks and recently co-sponsored a bill that would permanently ban these kinds of pork-barrel projects from the legislative process, but she favored this grant. Can anyone say “hypocrite?”
The Buffalo (NY) Mainstreet Revitalization program cost “only” $14 million. This project will help safely reintroduce vehicle traffic to Main Street in downtown Buffalo and improve transit stations along the corridor by:
- Restoring two-way traffic on Main Street by allowing vehicles to share lanes with the light rail trains
- Enhancing existing light rail stations with real time audio and visual transit information displays (you never know when a blind person that has a “critical national objective” may have to get around in Buffalo – sorry, I just couldn’t resist commenting)
- Providing visibly distinct pedestrian crosswalks at all intersections, reconnects streets, and improves paving, landscaping, and street furnishings
It will also fund major streetscape improvements to revitalize and reorient economic growth downtown.
BTW, a complete list of TIGER III projects, including dollar amounts, can be found here. Thank God the DOT had only $527 million to spend on TIGER. Otherwise we would have been “critical national objectives” to death. But now we know what DOT means when it uses the phrase “critical national objectives.” I feel a lot safer now, and I’m sure you do as well.
But that’s just my opinion.
Access to other articles like this one can be found at RWNO, my personal web site.