About six weeks ago, Secretary of Transportation Foxx announced an award of $474 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) funds for 52 “transportation” projects in 37 states.
In doing so, Secretary Foxx said, “These transformational TIGER projects are the best argument for investment in our transportation infrastructure. Together, they support President Obama’s call to ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.” That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Everyone in our industry is well aware of the infrastructure needs in this country, bridges have collapsed, many highways are in dire need of repair or replacement; and almost half a billion dollars should at least be a start in correcting the many deficiencies.
But wait. Where did this TIGER money go? Some of it went for bridge repair, intermodal terminals, and ports that are important to the commerce of the country. But as often happens with government transportation funds, much of it went for projects that contribute absolutely nothing to an enhanced national highway network. For example, according to the DOT, “TIGER funds will transform and repair the dilapidated and overly wide main road through Olean, NY into a calm, traditional boulevard, with a seven foot buffered bike lane in each direction, a tree-lined median, and raised mid-block crosswalks,” ($6.5 million!).
Or, “TIGER funds will upgrade 17.6 miles of loose gravel road to a paved surface that will provide a critical arterial route in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.” It will also have a bike lane, as well ($8.8 million!).
And the list goes on. To see all the projects, visit www.dot.gov/tiger. I am sure every one of them is important to those who will be directly affected, but where should our priorities be? A, for the most part, ineffective Congress continues to kick the infrastructure can down the road. At some point someone has to pick it up and throw it back at them.