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Feds Announce Winners of $293 Million in Transit Grants

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA chief Peter Rogoff announced the
winners of $293 million in competitive grants for bus and streetcar
projects
today. The biggest chunks of funding will help build
streetcar projects in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Fort Worth, and St. Louis,
as well as rapid bus corridors in New York and Chicago. All told, the
funding will be distributed among 53 projects, chosen from more than 300
applicants.

cincy_streetcar.jpgImage: Cincinnati Enquirer

While
streetcar projects got the largest individual grants, most of the
funding will go toward bus projects, including a number of grants for
smaller cities to build, expand, or improve stations like Des Moines's
Multi-Modal Transit Hub. Several bus projects have an information
component, promising to make service more predictable and convenient by
giving riders a clear sense of when buses will arrive.

Also on the list is Boston's regional bike-share network, slated to
receive $3 million to help build more than 500 public bicycle stations.
The bike-share project made the cut because of its potential to expand
the reach and accessibility of the bus and rail system. Boston's
bike-share launch recently got pushed
back to 2011
, but at that scale, it would be, by far, the largest
system in the country.

Here's a sample of the major projects that got a boost:

    • Cincinnati will receive $25 million to help build a six-milestreetcar route, with an eye toward spurring mixed-use developmentdowntown. The city planning commission recently took the enlightenedstep of reducing parking requirements along the future streetcar route.
    • Chicago received support for a pair of rapid bus projects: $11 million for the Jeffery BRT corridor, which will improve service to major job center on a route with poor access to trains, and $25 million for a two-mile, east-west bus priority street serving several routesdowntown.
    • New York City's 34th Street busway got an $18 milliongrant. Streetsblog NYC readers have been following this project for acouple of years. NYCDOT recently announced its intention to make 34th Street the first physically separated busway in the city.
    • One of the surprise winners was Fort Worth, which received about $25 million for a 2.5-mile one-way streetcar loop, intended toserve as the hub in a future network. Streetsblog Network member Fort Worthology called the grant "incredible and extremely positivenews" for the larger streetcar project.

You
can see the complete list of projects here
.

The funds are being distributed through two competitive grant
programs that LaHood
unveiled last December
. The "Urban Circulator" and "Bus and Bus
Livability" programs are tied to the Obama administration's multi-agency
livability initiative. The funding streams are separate from DOT's
larger competitive grant program, known as TIGER.

In an announcement this morning, LaHood indirectly tied the transit
grants to the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. "This
investment by the Obama Administration in our nation's communities will
create jobs, boost economic development and recovery, and further reduce
our dependence on oil," he said in a statement. Note: He said "oil,"
plain and simple. Not "foreign oil."

Advocates for reforming national transportation policy applauded
the grant program, noting that demand for funding far outstripped
supply. "As the grants show, communities across the country are
clamoring to use transportation investments to boost their economy while
making their communities better places to live and work," said James
Corless, director of Transportation for America. "FTA did a great job in
rounding up this money to put wheels on President Obama's livability
initiative, but we think that more communities should be able to benefit
from these sorts of programs. DOT needs to have more money for smart,
accountable, competitive programs like this in the future."

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