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Stalking TIGER Grants

Fed transit priorities shifting to quality of life

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The City of Boise will have to wait until February to hear the results of a federal stimulus grant application that could pay to build the bulk of the downtown streetcar system. But since applying for the TIGER grant from the Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has announced that projects similar to Boise's proposed circulator will get more attention from his agency.

"We'll finally be able to make the case for investing in popular streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want--and that our old ways of doing business didn't value enough," LaHood told the nonprofit Transportation Research Board earlier this month.

Boise applied for $40 million in TIGER funds late last year, a competitive grant that was part of the stimulus package. LaHood had said the awards would be announced in January, but Cece Gassner, the city's streetcar spokesperson, said she's heard the announcement will come next month.

LaHood also indicated recently that he likes many of the TIGER applications and wants the ability to fund more of them than the $1.5 billion cap allows.

"For example, we're sitting on high-quality applications worth billions of dollars submitted through our TIGER grant program that could be announced right away--if we had the funds," LaHood said.

He continued: "As we evaluate major transit projects going forward, we'll consider all the factors that help communities reduce their carbon footprint, spur economic activity, and relieve congestion."