Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a splash yesterday by announcing that the U.S. DOT would look at the environmental and community-building benefits of transit projects, not just their adherence to a government cost-effectiveness standard.
Washington D.C.'s proposed K Street transitway, pictured above, is one of many projects vying for TIGER money. (Photo: The City Fix)
But another promising development fell through the cracks, getting a mention in only one news story on LaHood's speech: The Obama administration wants to see a congressional jobs bill include more funding for TIGER, the stimulus law's $1.5 billion grant program that aims to put all modes of transportation on an equal footing.
"We hope Congress sees the 2010 jobs bill as an opportunity to unlock many more good transportation projects that are ready to go with more TIGER funding," LaHood said.
The House opted not to bolster TIGER funding in the $154 billion jobs bill that it passed last month, which included $75 billion in total infrastructure money that would be distributed through existing, and oft-criticized, transport formulas.
But the administration has hinted for some time now that it agrees with transportation reformers on the importance of boosting the TIGER program, which has attracted proposals from states that total more than 30 times the grants' current ceiling.
The choice to begin transitioning toward a more merit-based funding system by distributing money between the competitive TIGER program and the existing transportation formulas is now up to the Senate, which could release its jobs bill as soon as next week. A final vote, however, isn't expected until next month at the earliest.
When asked how much new TIGER money LaHood is eyeing for the jobs bill, a DOT spokeswoman said the Cabinet member's comments yesterday would stand on their own.