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Bids For Federal Streetcar Aid Top Available Money by Nearly Tenfold

10:00 AM PDT on March 24, 2010

After announcing $130 million in new streetcar grants in
December
, the Obama administration received more than $1.1 billion
in applications, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) chief Peter Rogoff
told lawmakers today -- offering more evidence of the growing local
enthusiasm for competitive transportation funding that began with the
stimulus law's TIGER
grant program
.

large_streetcar.red.JPGNew Orleans, above, is one of more
than 65 cities seeking federal grants for its streetcar. (Photo: Times-Picayune)

Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Rogoff said
the winners of the streetcar grants as well as a corresponding bus
funding program would be named in June. The bus grants, totaling $150
million, were even more popular than the streetcar funding, with more
than $2 billion worth of applications submitted to the FTA.

Rogoff, a veteran congressional aide before his nomination to the
FTA, described the streetcar and bus programs as elements of the
administration's broader
plan
to promote transit-oriented development and sustainable
transportation under the "livable communities" aegis.

The FTA, he said, will keep pursuing "more integrated regional
planning to guide state, metropolitan and
local decisions that link land use, transportation and housing policy,"
with a special emphasis on making the most of increasingly scarce
federal funds.

The stimulus law's $1.5 billion TIGER program (short for
Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) was even more
oversubscribed than the streetcar or bus grants, with more than $57
billion in bids pouring
in
. The grants were so in-demand that several Republicans took political
flak
for supporting local applications after criticizing the
stimulus law as a whole, and Democrats from states that came up short were
not shy
about airing their frustrations.

The significant demand for streetcar and bus funds, coming on the
heels of TIGER's success, could bolster the U.S. DOT's case for more
merit-based grant programs that disburse aid on the basis of
environmental and economic metrics rather than state-based formulas. The
White House already has signaled
that it supports an expansion of the TIGER program beyond the $600
million in extra grants approved
during last year's appropriations process.

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