Written by Kathryn Murphey, Senior Research Associate.
Counties play an essential role in building, maintaining and operating the nation’s infrastructure. Many of their projects go beyond their jurisdictional boundaries and benefit to a larger sway of municipalities. To assist in this effort, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) created in 2009 the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program that helps states and local governments with their transportation projects. At the beginning of this month, the U.S. DOT recently announced the 2013 TIGER round of grants and grantees. Over 50 projects in 37 states received more than $470 million in funding for infrastructure projects critical to national and local needs through this discretionary grant program. County governments are involved in 14 projects with a total investment of nearly $140 million.
These 14 projects are located throughout the country, with nine in the West and South and the rest in the Central and the Northeast regions. In only four grants, counties are the direct applicant, such as Pima County, Ariz., Winneshiek County, Iowa, Boston/Suffolk County, Mass. and Missoula County, Mont. In the remaining grants, counties are involved in an authority that received a grant such as the San Diego Association of Governments in California and the Port of Houston in Texas, showing the broad involvement of counties in transportation.
Many projects awarded TIGER funding aim to improve flow of trade in the nation’s ports. For example, Pima County, Ariz. will use $5 million in grants to support a $13 million project to install high-powered switches, a double loop track and other improvements at the Port of Tucson. The improvements will eliminate the need for trains entering the port to slow down or stop causing a buildup of train traffic. The plan will not only increase business within the expanding port by allowing for simultaneous loading and unloading of trains but also will decrease traffic delays on nearby roadways. The vital project will provide a throughway for the region’s businesses and exports to international markets.
Other projects seek to improve transportation for bicycles and pedestrians. The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization is creating transportation connections for bicycles and pedestrians through the construction of a regional trail network. With $10 million in TIGER grant funding, the project will create a cohesive system connecting transit hubs with major areas throughout the county including residential, commercial and recreational facilities. The dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian walkways will improve safety in the county. Between 2000 and 2013, 22 percent of all crashes in Lee County involved injuries to bicyclists or pedestrians, almost double the national average. The plan builds on a regional network of nearly 100 miles of transportation facilities for bicycles and pedestrians to improve safety for all who use the county roads.
TIGER grant funding is helping counties build and maintain the infrastructure needed to keep America moving, an example of federal-county collaboration. From ports to trails, counties are creating safer and more efficient ways for residents to travel and goods to move throughout the country.