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Eno Transportation Weekly

FY17 TIGER Grant Applications Solicited

September 8, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a formal notice announcing the availability of $480 million in TIGER grants for surface transportation projects using funding appropriated in the fiscal 2017 omnibus appropriations act. Applications are due by 8 p.m. Eastern time on October 16, 2017.

As expected, the new notice telegraphs the Trump Administration’s intention to increase the percentage of grants that go to projects in rural areas above the statutory minimum and above the levels funded by the Obama Administration. From the FAQ document accompanying the notice: “The FY 2017 TIGER program will additionally give special consideration to projects which emphasize improved access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation for communities in rural areas, such as projects that improve infrastructure conditions, address public health and safety, promote regional connectivity, or facilitate economic growth or competitiveness.”

As far as just what qualifies as “rural,” the FAQ document says “Per the Census Bureau, a UA is an area that consists of densely settled territory with a population of 50,000 or more people. The Department will consider a project to be in a rural area if most or all of the project (determined by geographic location(s) where the majority of money is to be spent) is located in a rural area (outside a UA). If a project consists of multiple components…then for each separate component the Department will determine whether that component is rural or urban, and will determine if the majority of funds are being spent in an urban or rural area.”

The new FY17 notice is somewhat surprising in that the Trump Administration has not changed the primary evaluation criteria for projects that the Obama Administration used: safety, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, quality of life, and environmental sustainability. However, the definitions of those terms have changed, significantly in some instances., including:

  • The emphasis on pedestrian safety has been removed from the safety criterion.
  • References to resiliency from climate change have been removed from the state of good repair criterion.
  • Specific references to congestion pricing and to public-private partnerships have been added to the economic competitiveness criterion.
  • The reference to “green infrastructure” has been removed from the environmental sustainability criterion.
  • The “quality of life” criterion has been completely rewritten. All of the reference to “livability” have been removed, as has the reference to coordination with land-use planning and economic development decisions. And while the Obama criterion emphasized improving access to essential services for “particularly for disadvantaged groups,” the Trump criterion changes that to “particularly for rural communities.”

The following side-by-side shows the phrasing of those criteria in the new FY 2017 notice compared with the FY 2016 notice. Below that is a table comparing how the basic rules of each year’s TIGER program have evolved since its inception in 2009.

 

PRIMARY SELECTION CRITERIA FOR TIGER GRANTS

FY 2016 NOFO (Obama Admin.)FY 2017 NOFO (Trump Admin.)
Safety. Improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and systems for all modes of transportation and users. DOT will assess the project’s ability to reduce the number, rate, and consequences of surface transportation-related accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities among transportation users, including pedestrians, the project’s contribution to the elimination of highway/rail grade crossings, and the project’s contribution to preventing unintended releases of hazardous materials. DOT will consider the project’s ability to foster a safe, connected, accessible transportation system for the multimodal movement of goods and people.Safety. The Department will assess the project’s ability to foster a safe transportation system for the movement of goods and people. The Department will consider the projected impacts on the number, rate, and consequences of crashes, fatalities and injuries among transportation users; the project’s contribution to the elimination of highway/rail grade crossings, or the project’s contribution to preventing unintended releases of hazardous materials.
State of Good Repair. Improving the condition and resilience of existing transportation facilities and systems. DOT will assess whether and to what extent: (1) The project is consistent with relevant plans to maintain transportation facilities or systems in a state of good repair and address current and projected vulnerabilities; (2) if left unimproved, the poor condition of the asset will threaten future transportation network efficiency, mobility of goods or accessibility and mobility of people, or economic growth; (3) the project is appropriately capitalized up front and uses asset management approaches that optimize its long-term cost structure; (4) a sustainable source of revenue is available for operations and maintenance of the project; and (5) the project improves the transportation asset’s ability to withstand probable occurrence or recurrence of an emergency or major disaster or other impacts of climate change. Additional consideration will be given to a project’s contribution to improving the overall reliability of a multimodal transportation system that serves all users, and to projects that offer significant transformational improvements to the condition of existing transportation systems and facilities.State of Good Repair. The Department will assess whether and to what extent: (1) The project is consistent with relevant plans to maintain transportation facilities or systems in a state of good repair and address current and projected vulnerabilities; (2) if left unimproved, the poor condition of the asset will threaten future transportation network efficiency, mobility of goods or accessibility and mobility of people, or economic growth; (3) the project is appropriately capitalized up front and uses asset management approaches that optimize its long-term cost structure; (4) a sustainable source of revenue is available for operations and maintenance of the project and the project will reduce overall life-cycle costs; and (5) the project includes a plan to maintain the infrastructure in a state of good repair. The Department will prioritize projects that ensure the good condition of infrastructure, including rural infrastructure, that support commerce and economic growth.
Economic Competitiveness. Contributing to the economic competitiveness of the United States over the medium- to long-term, revitalizing communities, and creating and preserving jobs. DOT will assess whether the project will (1) decrease transportation costs and improve access for Americans with transportation disadvantages through reliable and timely access to employment centers, education and training opportunities, and other basic needs of workers; (2) improve long-term efficiency, reliability or costs in the movement of workers or goods; (3) increase the economic productivity of land, capital, or labor at specific locations, or through community revitalization efforts; (4) result in long-term job creation and other economic opportunities; or (5) help the United States compete in a global economy by facilitating efficient and reliable freight movement, including border infrastructure and projects that have a significant effect on reducing the costs of transporting export cargoes. DOT will prioritize projects that exhibit strong leadership and vision, and are part of a larger strategy to significantly revitalize communities and increase economic opportunities.Economic competitiveness. The Department will assess whether the project will (1) decrease transportation costs and improve access, especially for rural communities, through reliable and timely access to employment centers and job opportunities; (2) improve long-term efficiency, reliability or costs in the movement of workers or goods; (3) increase the economic productivity of land, capital, or labor; (4) result in long- term job creation and other economic opportunities; or (5) help the United States compete in a global economy by facilitating efficient and reliable freight movement. Projects that address congestion in major urban areas, particularly those that do so through the use of congestion pricing or the deployment of advanced technology, projects that bridge gaps in service in rural areas, and projects that attract private economic development, all support national or regional economic competitiveness. Projects that incorporate private sector contributions, including through a public-private partnership structure, are likely to be more competitive that those that rely solely on public non-Federal funding.
Environmental Sustainability. Improving energy efficiency, reducing dependence on oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality, avoiding and mitigating environmental impacts and otherwise benefitting the environment. DOT will assess the project’s ability to: (i) Reduce energy use and air or water pollution; (ii) avoid adverse environmental impacts to air or water quality, wetlands, and endangered species; or (iii) provide environmental benefits, such as brownfield redevelopment, ground water recharge in areas of water scarcity, wetlands creation or improved habitat connectivity, and stormwater mitigation, including green infrastructure. Applicants are encouraged to provide quantitative information, including baseline information that demonstrates how the project will reduce energy consumption, stormwater runoff, or achieve other benefits for the environment.Environmental sustainability. The Department will consider the extent to which the project improves energy efficiency, reduces dependence on oil, reduces congestion-related emissions, improves water quality, avoids and mitigates environmental impacts and otherwise benefits the environment, including through alternative right of way uses demonstrating innovative ways to improve or streamline environmental reviews while maintaining the same outcomes. The Department will assess the project’s ability to: (i) Reduce energy use and air or water pollution through congestion mitigation strategies; (ii) avoid adverse environmental impacts to air or water quality, wetlands, and endangered species; or (iii) provide environmental benefits, such as brownfield redevelopment, ground water recharge in areas of water scarcity, wetlands creation or improved habitat connectivity, and stormwater mitigation.
Quality of Life. Increasing transportation choices and improving access to essential services for people in communities across the United States, particularly for disadvantaged groups. DOT will assess whether the project furthers the six ‘‘Livability Principles’’ developed by DOT with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. DOT will focus on the first principle, the creation of affordable and convenient transportation choices. Further, DOT will prioritize projects developed in coordination with land-use planning and economic development decisions, including through programs like TIGER Planning Grants, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Regional Planning Grants, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program, and technical assistance programs focused on quality of life or economic development planning. DOT will assess the extent to which the project will anchor transformative, positive, and long-lasting quality of life changes at the national, regional or metropolitan level.Quality of life. The Department will consider the extent to which the project increases transportation choices for individuals to provide more freedom on transportation decisions and improves access to essential services for people in communities across the United States, particularly for rural communities. The Department will consider the extent to which the project improves connectivity for citizens to jobs, health care, and other critical destinations.