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Published: 20 March 2017      

Trump kills TIGER

The Trump Administration has eliminated funding for the TIGER scheme for transport infrastructure grants in its “Blueprint” budget proposal for 2018.

The Trump administration has decided to unveil its 2018 budget “sequentially”, starting with a “Blueprint” that provides some details of discretionary funding proposals. The first budget document, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” has cut funding for the US transport department by 14%, including eliminating the TIGER programme for transport infrastructure. 

TIGER, which stands for Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery, has been a significant factor in port, rail and roading project since it was introduced in 2009. Lobby groups including the Association of American Port Authorities (AAPA) and the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) have not always been happy with the proportion of the funding pool allocated to freight transport projects, but TIGER funding has been significant factor nonetheless.

In eight competitive funding rounds grants have covered port activities ranging from master planning studies, berth extensions, yard reconfigurations, rail projects and equipment purchases. By WorldCargo News calculations, TIGER funding has been allocated to 49 different port projects valued at US$585.8M. 

The blueprint promises the budget will eliminate funding “for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Further, DOT’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits. This grant program is authorized at an annual average of $900 million through 2020”.

CAGTC highlighted that smaller will be most affected by ending TIGER. “Whereas the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program was developed with freight-focused investment criteria, the TIGER program is available to address a multitude of mobility issues – including freight, mixed use infrastructure, and transit. In fact, in Fiscal Year 2016, just 26 percent of total TIGER funding was awarded to projects with a strong freight component.
 
“The two programs address needs of differing size and scale, and projects that qualify under one program may not qualify under the other. With little exception, project costs must total a minimum of $100 million to be considered under the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program; for TIGER, the minimum total project cost is $6 million in urban areas and even less for rural areas. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average award size through the TIGER program is $14.5 million. By contrast, the average award under the first round of Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program – designed largely for mega-projects – is $42.2 million,” CAGTC stated.

A look at the last round of TIGER Grants (Round VIII) highlights CAGTC’s concern. Funding was awarded to Port of Albany, the Virgin Islands Port Authority, Port Everett, Port Authority of Guam, Port of Portland and the Little Rock Port Authority in Arkansas. 

Ahead of the budget announcement the AAPA had expressed concerned that the TIGER scheme would be axed, and instead was calling for it to be expanded to $1.25 billion. AAPA also expects ports to lose funds allocated through the Environmental Protection Agency (which is to see a 31% reduction in funding) for diesel emissions reduction grants, and from the Port Security Grants Program administered by Homeland Security. Neither was specifically mentioned in the blueprint document.



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