announcement of recipients of the highly competitive transportation
Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants contains quite a bit of
good news for Americans looking for transportation options beyond highways and
More than $14
billion worth of roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian
infrastructure projects were applied for from the $527 million available in
TIGER grants. The applications came from city and county municipalities across
America and reflected a local, grassroots understanding of the improvements
needed to make these communities better places to live, work and do business.
Often, the improvements they sought were infrastructure for biking and walking.
active transportation advocates, it appears that U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Ray LaHood and the rest of the U.S. Department of Transportation
remain committed to the promise of ensuring biking and walking are crucial
parts of America's transportation landscape: Of the 46 projects chosen for
TIGER grants, 22 incorporate some aspect of bike and pedestrian
"It is great to see
a broad range of projects, even those that are primarily on roads, integrating
walking and biking into their design," says Kartik Sribarra, Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy's director of policy outreach. "Giving people the option to walk or
bike is key to building better cities, neighborhoods that move better, and downtown
areas that thrive."
for biking and walking advocates will likely be the funding of Chicago's first
large-scale bike share program, terrific news for a city whose leadership has
indicated that non-motorized transportation is central to its sustained growth.
There is great news,
too, for the people of Beaufort, S.C., with funding announced for the city's
effort to reconstruct its downtown area to improve accessibility.
City planners have
said that their main street's current suburban-style commercial corridor is not
only dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, but also an obstacle to shopping
and other economic activity. The city's retrofit will focus on integrating
motor vehicles, transit, biking and walking, as well as a connection to the
Rail-Trail, which, when complete, will connect with schools, neighborhoods
and service centers throughout the region.
Beaufort are increasingly aware of the fact that commercial areas that
discourage walking and biking are just not maximizing their potential for good business,"
Sribarra says. "Downtown areas to which people can walk or ride not only
provide a great health benefit, but nearby real estate values benefit, too.
Commercial areas become vibrant places of community, rather than less appealing
parking lots, which typically don't encourage walking, sightseeing, window
shopping or community activity."
The Beaufort TIGER
grant included a significant match from the city. The match was provided in
part by a one percent local sales tax designated specifically for
transportation improvements, an indication that local voters were willing to
invest in more options for biking and walking in their city.
Manager Scott Dadson says that designing shopping centers only for vehicular
access limits their potential for success.
"Even in a city the
size of Beaufort, people will choose not to go out shopping if it means driving
in traffic at certain times of the day," he says. "We also look at the cost of
gas as another gauge of whether it's 'worth it' to get in the car and drive
somewhere. If walking or biking or taking a golf cart are other options to get
to the store, suddenly those businesses have a more robust market in which to
serve and hopefully succeed."
Minn., a relatively small TIGER grant will have a massive impact on pedestrian
safety and give residents and students another transportation option for short
trips around this small city of about 20,000 people.
For a federal
investment of a little more than $1 million, Northfield will be able to build a
pedestrian crossing traversing State Highway 3, a major road bisecting the
city. This link will allow pedestrian and bicycle access between residential
and college areas and the downtown area, and improve safety on and around the
The people of
Northfield believe strongly that their transportation landscape must give them
options other than to drive. This project represents a widespread community
effort to improve safety in an area where 23 percent of all commutes are
crossing project is a great example of how relatively small investments in
walking and bicycling infrastructure have an enormous impact on day to day
lives," Sribarra says. "$1 million is a drop in the bucket of the price of a
road. But for this same $1 million, scores of people every day will benefit
from a safer, healthier commute, which also has the benefit of getting cars off
the road during peak periods."
Other significant bicycle
and pedestrian-related projects to receive TIGER funding include:
Main Street Revitalization (N.Y.) - A project to revitalize the historical
downtown area by improving transportation connectivity and pedestrian access.
Intermodal Access (Conn.) - Improve pedestrian access to the Stamford Transit
Road Improvement (Fla.) - Improve 2.25 miles of road on the Big Cypress
Reservation, including a 5-foot sidewalk and a 12-foot multi-use path.
- US 101 Smith River Safety Corridor (Calif.)
- Improve a portion of US 101 including pedestrian features to slow
traffic and provide safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists to vital
- City of American Falls Complete Streets
(Idaho) - Transform the downtown area to safely accommodate pedestrians
- St Albans Main Street Reconstruction
(Vt.) - Improving livability in the center of a small city by improving
For every project to receive TIGER funding, however, there were many more
non-motorized infrastructure projects to miss out. An innovative regional
effort involving a number of cities in the northeast, including Baltimore, Philadelphia,
Camden and Newark, would have provided walking and cycling connections for
millions of residents and boosted the commercial and environmental
sustainability of an enormous metropolitan area.
With current political threats to the Transportation Enhancements program
and other funding for active transportation projects, whether our state
and federal government are willing to invest in the forward-thinking plans of America's
cities and counties will have a great impact on how we all get from A to B in
the coming decades.
Photo of shoppers enjoying a pedestrian friendly commercial area in Burlington, Vt., by RTC