Illinois was the largest recipient in the nation of the latest round of U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. The state received $44.2 million of the the coveted and highly competitive TIGER funds, which reward innovative transportation projects that have significant economic and environmental benefits, create jobs, and have a major impact on the nation, a region, or a metropolitan area.
The third round of TIGER funds doled out $527 million. As with TIGER I and II, TIGER III saw overwhelming interest with 828 applications from all 50 states for a total of $14.1 billion in projects.
Illinois was awarded eight percent of the total funding available, a big win and more proof that the transportation industry is one of our state’s most vital assets that will lead Illinois’ economic recovery. Awarded projects include:
- $20 million – Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Blue Line/Chicago Bike Share Program
- Repair 3.6 miles of CTA Blue Line track between Damen and Belmont, the final step of the Blue Line track upgrade between the Loop and O’Hare Airport.
- Jumpstart Chicago’s first large-scale bike sharing program. The program launches in Spring 2012 with 3,000 bikes at 300 solar-powered stations located in high-density areas citywide. An additional 2,000 bikes and 200 stations will be added through 2014.
- $13.85 million – Multimodal Transportation Center in Alton
- Build the Alton Regional Multi-modal Transportation Center adjacent to the new Amtrak high-speed rail station in Alton. The project will support a major expansion of eco-tourism to the Mississippi River region, as well as a $72 million public-private redevelopment project. The grant also will allow Madison County Transit to improve connectivity through the region, including Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, which attracts more than one-third of its 14,000-student body from metro Chicago and other cities along the high-speed rail corridor.
- $10.4 million – Illinois Route 83
- Reconstruct two miles of Illinois Route 83 between Kedzie Avenue and Western Avenue/Dixie Highway with two travel lanes in each direction separated by a median to accommodate left turn lanes. The project, along with the planned interchange between Interstates 57 and 294, will reduce congestion, improve the flow of goods and services throughout the region, and create about 135 construction jobs.
As with all TIGER awards, the benefits of these projects go way beyond the construction site. That’s because TIGER grants maximize our current infrastructure investments, get more out of our existing transportation investments, and reduce the demand on future transportation resources. A limited supply of federal dollars means we must evaluate potential investments based on their ability to reduce hours spent in traffic, curb emissions, and connect different transportation modes with affordable homes and jobs – exactly what the TIGER program does.
Transportation is not an end in and of itself; it is a means to an end. Thus, transportation investments should further the ultimate goals of expanding safe, reliable, convenient travel options to move people and goods to their destinations. In May, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the bipartisan Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment Act (TIGER), co-sponsored by Sens. Murray (D-Wash.) and Collins (R-Maine), which would make the TIGER program permanent. MPC supports this legislation.