Transportation for America – an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country advocating for investment in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions – released a strongly worded objection to President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018. The proposal cuts the U.S. Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget by 13 percent, ends the popular TIGER competitive grant program, eliminates the New & Small Starts transit construction program, and terminates funding for long-distance passenger rail funding, among other notable cuts.
“This budget proposal severely undercuts the President’s stated commitment to infrastructure, and would leave behind many of the rural communities that supported him in November,” said T4America Director Adrea Turner. “After months of promises to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, the first concrete action taken by the Trump administration on this issue is to propose drastic cuts to transportation programs that bring notable economic benefits to communities across the country, from small towns to large cities.
“Combined with the proposed elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program, this will put even more pressure on already overstretched local governments. This is a slap in face to the millions of local residents who have raised their own taxes – with the full expectation they would be combined with the limited pool of federal grants – to complete their priority transportation projects,” Turner said.
“The proposal completely eliminates the popular TIGER competitive grant program that has funded more than 400 transformational projects spanning all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The program leverages billions to accelerate key projects that drive local, regional and state economic development. Through the first five rounds of funding, TIGER projects brought 3.5 other dollars to the table for each federal dollar awarded. Despite the budget proposal’s recommendation for these communities to apply for funding from other freight programs, these programs are either not multimodal at all or have caps on the funding for non-highway projects,” Turner continued.
“This budget also entirely eliminates funding for building new public transportation lines and service. While it will theoretically allow the small number of new transit construction projects with federal funding agreements already in hand to proceed, ending this program threatens the ability of local communities of all sizes to satisfy the booming demand for well-connected locations served by transit. Tempe, Ariz., has set aside money from a voter-approved sales tax for 13 years to pair with a future federal grant to build a streetcar. In November, voters in Indianapolis approved an income tax increase in November to pay their share of a new bus rapid transit project and voters in Atlanta approved a sales tax increase to add transit to their one-of-a-kind Beltline project. These local communities and scores of others generating their own funds to invest in transit will be left high and dry by this proposal,” Turner continued.
“While preserving funds for the northeast rail corridor, it ‘terminates’ funding for long-distance passenger rail service. This will hit rural communities especially hard, like the Gulf Coast communities that have been working to restore passenger rail service between New Orleans and Orlando wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. These smaller communities are demonstrating their commitment to realizing the economic development that restored service will bring by stepping up and pledging their own dollars to match or exceed any federal dollars. Combined with the proposal to end the Essential Air Service program, rural communities could be more disconnected than ever before,” Turner continued.
“Our nation’s infrastructure serves as the backbone for economic growth and prosperity. The administration’s proposed budget falls short of prioritizing investment in the local communities that are the basic building block of the national economy. We urge leaders to uphold their promise to the American people and reinvest in our nation’s communities,” Turner concluded.