A senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has introduced a bill that would reauthorize a popular federal transportation grant program and set aside a portion of the program’s funds for small and medium size cities.
Under the bill introduced earlier this month by Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., a minimum of 20% of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program funds would be allocated to cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 people.
TIGER grants often supplement bond and public-private partnership financing. State and local governments, transportation agencies and authorities and metropolitan planning organizations go through a highly competitive process to receive the grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The department gives priority to projects with significant metropolitan, regional or national long-term impact and that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate economic activity.
Larsen’s bill would appropriate $500 million to TIGER for fiscal year 2014, slightly more than the level in the previous year. Of that money, at least $100 million would be for small and medium sized cities, and the minimum grant amount for the projects would be $2 million.
In fiscal 2013, about a quarter of TIGER funding has been set aside for rural communities, and most of the remainder of the funds are going to large cities and statewide projects, according to a news release from Larsen’s office.
“TIGER grants are a great way to create jobs by investing in our roads, bridges and highways. But smaller cities don’t have the resources to compete for these grants with the New Yorks and San Franciscos of the country,” Larsen said in the release. He added that his bill would give smaller cities such as those in his home state “a fair shot” at the transportation dollars.
The House and the Senate transportation and housing appropriations bills differ vastly when it comes to funding the program for fiscal 2014. The House bill does not include any funding for TIGER grants, while the Senate bill appropriates $550 million for the grants and requires DOT to allocate at least $110 million of that amount for projects in rural communities.
Both of those bills have faced challenges in their respective chambers. The House bill was pulled from floor consideration amid concerns that the legislation might not pass. A motion to limit debate on the Senate bill was rejected during the last week before Congress’ August recess.
Larsen’s bill has been referred to the House appropriations and budget committees. Larsen spokesman Bryan Thomas said that the congressman’s proposal is unlikely to pass as a stand-alone bill, or that its contents could become an amendment to an appropriations bill or part of the reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which expires on Sept. 30, 2014.