Government funds 47 transportation projects

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Forty-seven local and regional infrastructure projects have won funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday, when he also called on Congress to break its impasse on the stalled surface transportation bill.

Following a nationwide TIGER competition for shares of a $500 million pot for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure, LaHood announced the winners from 34 states. They include a streetcar project in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects such as one at Raleigh Union Station in North Carolina; a freight rail congestion-easing project in Chicago; and various multimodal, bicycle and pedestrian projects such as a corridor connecting Memphis and West Memphis in Tennessee.

More than $120 million will go to projects in rural areas, particularly to repair decaying roads and bridges.

“Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling,” LaHood said in a conference call with reporters. “The only place where there is more gridlock than on our roads is in Congress.” Invoking the Obama administration’s theme of innovating for “an America built to last,” the former Republican House member called on lawmakers to “stop playing political games and take action. The construction workers are ready, let’s put them back to work.”

LaHood noted that Tuesday marked the 1,000th day without a “real” transportation bill—for three years surface transportation authority has been renewed temporarily. He added that only a week remains before the department runs out of funds. [Should add a sentence about what kind of bills we’ve had for several years instead of a ‘real’ one…]While the department’s staff has been asked for technical assistance, he said in response to a question, he has not personally been involved in trying to break Congress’ logjam on renewing the expired bill.

During the next six months, 27 projects are expected to break ground from the previous three rounds of TIGER. In addition, work is proceeding on 64 capital projects across the country.

LaHood noted applications for this year’s round of TIGER totaled 703 projects, which would cost $10.2 billion if all were funded, an indication of pent-up local and regional demand. The program in the past three years has spent $3.1 billion for 218 projects in 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia -- money that is expanded by contributions from private sector partners, states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies.

Many of the projects are “regional in nature, the result of communities coming together, which is a cornerstone of TIGER,” LaHood said. He advised unsuccessful applicants not to give up, saying many apply two or three times before they’re funded. Because money is tight, added Polly Trottenberg, assistant secretary for transportation policy, many applicants find that only a “strong segment” of their larger plan receives funds.

Responding to localized questions, LaHood touted his agency’s role in helping resolve the still-pending controversy over funding for extending the Washington-area Metro transit system to Dulles International Airport and on to Loudoun County, Va. LaHood called the project “a model for the country and a national project,” adding without the intervention in negotiations and extra funding from the Transportation Department, the project wouldn’t be as close as it is to final financing, which still depends on approval from the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.

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