Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation released guidelines for “ TIGER II,” a $600 million merit-based program that may give a glimpse of a future in which transportation projects are routinely multimodal – and make land use connections.
The first TIGER program (distributed in February) was met with overwhelming demand from cities, regions, and states across the country: more than 1,400 applications were filed, representing all 50 states and totaling almost $60 billion (nearly $58.5 billion more than was available). Many of the awards went to projects that included complete streets elements, making a strong case that multimodal, inclusive projects will fare well in TIGER II.
Building on their commitment to working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the DOT has proposed tying decisions on TIGER II projects to decisions on HUD’s $40 million Community Challenge Planning Grants. The collaborative approach will encourage communities to address transportation, housing economic development, and land use needs in a holistic way, helping provide Americans in communities of all sizes with transportation choices, affordable housing, and lower transportation costs. In support of this goal, $35 million of TIGER II funds will be available for transportation project planning. HUD’s program will have a wider focus, including the development of master plans, zoning code reform, and other strategies that will create walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented, and affordable communities. We understand that the program could fund planning for implementation of Complete Streets policies.
While the TIGER program created by last year’s Recovery Act was all about job creation, TIGER II proposals will be judged on long-term positive outcomes in improving the condition of transportation facilities and networks; contributing to economic competitiveness over the medium- and long-term; fostering livable communities and transportation choices; contributing to environmental sustainability; and improving safety.
U.S. DOT is utilizing a “benefit-cost analysis” that attempts to measure the dollar value of the benefits and costs to all residents of the U.S. while also recognizing that some benefits – including environmental justice and social equity – do not readily lend themselves to monetization. Applicants using a complete streets approach will find the long-term benefits of complete streets overlap with many of the benefits DOT indicates it requires. For example, complete streets improve accessibility of many transportation modes; driving alone is not the only viable way to reach a destination. The TIGER II announcement notes that this improved access is the most important aspect of livability. A few other overlapping benefits include:
- Improved access to, and condition of, transportation for low-income families, for people with disabilities, and or older Americans;
- Increased safety for all users, regardless of mode, age, or ability;
- Choice of transportation modes that are less dependent on oil and associated with lower emissions;
- Intrinsic need for collaboration among stakeholder groups, agencies, and departments within an agency; and
- While individual projects funded through TIGER II may not be indicative of true Complete Streets policy change, they can inspire new approaches and spark a more comprehensive Complete Streets policy initiative.
Public comments on the TIGER II criteria and partnership with HUD are due May 8. Right now, it is expected that pre-applications (required for all applicants) will be due on July 16, with final applications submitted by August 23. Final selections would be announced by September 15.