The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the latest round of funding for the BUILD program (formerly known as TIGER). This program has been perennially popular since 2009 when the program was conceived. Now entering round 11 of funding, a new analysis of the program has uncovered some worrying findings, according to Transportation for America.
Under President Trump, the USDOT has effectively turned the formerly innovative BUILD program, created to advance complex, hard-to-fund projects, into little more than a rural roads program, dramatically undercutting both its intent and utility.
The unique utility of the BUILD program comes from how it differs from most other federal transportation programs.
- It is extremely flexible: funds can be awarded to any public entity and can fund almost any kind of transportation project.
- Competition resulted in projects with greater benefits: projects are awarded funding based on the extent to which projects improve safety, state of repair, economic competitiveness, quality of life, and environmental sustainability rather than automatic payments to states.
Through comparing the projects selected for funding over the last 10 years and their level of funding, the analysis shows that under the Trump administration, the focus of BUILD has shifted to:
- More roads, less multimodal. Funding for transit projects has reached new lows while road projects have received record levels of funding. The small amount of funding for multi-modal projects is inconsistent with the law.
- More new capacity, less repair. The Trump administration has focused more heavily on capacity expansion (i.e. new roads and road widenings) versus repair and bridge replacement. The Trump administration has prioritized doing the exact opposite of “repairing our crumbling roads and bridges” with the BUILD program.
- More funding for state DOTs, less for anyone else. An average of 37.5% of funding has gone to state DOTs under the Trump administration compared to 28% under the Obama administration. This undermines one of the greatest strengths of the BUILD program: the ability for local governments (or any public entity) to receive direct federal funding.
- More rural, less urban. While 81% of Americans live in urban areas, average funding for projects in urban areas has dropped from 75% to 33%. Disproportionately awarding grants to projects in rural areas is inconsistent with the intent of the intent and letter of the law.
The group said it will soon release recommendations for the BUILD program (and the federal transportation program as a whole) based on what it has learned after a decade of experience with the TIGER/BUILD program.
Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions.