With the February 17 announcements of the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER grants -- supported by investment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) -- federal transportation investment for the first time prioritized intermodalism and economic development into the selection of projects. The focus of TIGER projects isn't surprising, given its inclusion in the ARRA legislation intended as an economic stimulus effort. Numerous projects supporting multiple modes of passenger rail -- directly or indirectly -- will yield nearly $1 billion in investment to leverage the growing momentum created by the recent announcement of recipients of high-speed and intercity passenger rail funding (for more information on these projects, please visit Rail Magazine's High-Speed Rail Analysis).
Several themes have emerged based on the TIGER-selected projects:
- Multimodal, multi-state projects to improve freight rail capacity were among the biggest winners of investment. Most notably, the Crescent Corridor (Tenn., Ala.), CREATE (Ill.) and National Gateway (Ohio, Penn., West Va. and Md.) freight rail projects each received about $100 million through TIGER to improve capacity in congested freight locations and corridors. While the immediate benefit of the Crescent Corridor and National Gateway projects most immediately affect freight railroads, improved capacity means all trains move faster through the nation's interconnected rail network, allowing improved operating conditions for existing intercity and commuter rail trains. Meanwhile, the CREATE project in the Chicagoland area focuses on new infrastructure for both passenger and freight rail traffic, and reducing congestion in the nation's busiest rail nexus. Moreover, a strong signal of support in freight railroads by public entities represents a good-faith effort towards the private sector, introducing opportunities for new and strengthened partnerships for passenger rail in the future.
- Regional transportation hubs fared nearly as well as freight rail capacity projects, as the Moynihan Station (New York, N.Y.), Normal Multimodal Center (Ill.) and St. Paul Union Depot (Minn.) intermodal facility efforts each received strong support under the TIGER program. These projects will revitalize connections between intercity rail, local bus and rail transit options, taxis, bicycle paths and facilities and economic development efforts to foster regional centers where travelers can access a host of mobility options.
- TIGER investment also will support a series of new streetcar projects around the nation, specifically in Tucson (Ariz.), New Orleans (La.), Portland (Ore.) and Dallas (Texas), along with Detroit's Woodward Avenue light-rail line (Mich.). While there has been some concern that the recently-announced Small Starts program included only one streetcar project (Portland, Ore.), the Obama Administration's inclusion of streetcar efforts in the TIGER program indicates the Administration's support for continued investment in this mode.
- The TIGER program will also provide investment for a short extension of the existing Fitchburg Line commuter rail service of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority west to Wachusett, including a new station there. The project will also reduce travel times on the existing from Fitchburg to Boston's North Station.
Note: For perspective on the transit project supported the TIGER program, visit: NRC Capitol Clips