On Feb. 17, the one-year anniversary of the $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (U.S. DOT) announced the recipients of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grants. Illinois received funding for three projects including $100 million for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE).
CREATE is a project of national significance that will unlock freight and commuter gridlock in our region by making critically needed infrastructure improvements. MPC’s 2002 report Critical Cargo built early support for these investments, and we continue to advocate for full funding of CREATE. Because these upgrades also will benefit freight movement from coast to coast, it is fitting that CREATE’s TIGER grant is second only to $105 million for the Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Rail Project in the southern states of Tennessee and Alabama.
The grant will fund six CREATE projects, benefiting 13 communities and moving two of the region’s top freight corridors – the Beltway and Western Avenue– to near-completion, while yielding substantial benefits:
- The creation of 1,087 additional jobs
- 17,684 hours in annual freight delay reductions
- Reduced annual passenger rail delays of 57,631 passenger hours
- Reduced motorist delays of 344,499 hours
- $2.5 million annual costs savings associated with emissions reduction and reduced diesel consumption
U.S. DOT received nearly 1,400 applications (including 52 from Illinois) requesting funding for almost $60 billion worth of projects – or 40 times the amount available. Although U.S. DOT allocations tend to favor highways, and 57 percent of TIGER applications were indeed for highway funding, some 26 percent of the TIGER grants went to transit projects, 25 percent to rail, and 23 percent to highways. This mode split truly reflects U.S. DOT’s commitment to promote greater mobility, a cleaner environment, and more livable communities. Just as significant was that the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency both helped review the applications. By coordinating, all three agencies had a hand in ensuring the winning projects truly contribute to more sustainable, attractive and economically competitive communities.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) already has made possible more than 12,500 transportation construction projects. This week’s TIGER announcement of $1.5 billion in additional funding will support 51 more innovative transportation projects across the United States.
Combined with the high-speed rail grants in January, which awarded an additional $133 million to CREATE to build the Englewood Flyover, metropolitan Chicago is putting federal investments to good use to complete high-priority infrastructure improvements that will have tremendous economic, environmental and quality-of-life benefits for the entire region.