Monday, February 22, 2010

Both Birmingham and Atlanta lost out on their T.I.G.E.R. grant bids

On February 17th, the 2010 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant recipient list was announced, but Birmingham and Atlanta main transit projects weren't on the list.  The grant program is worth over $1.5 billion in funds to well over 50 different programs that will improve transportation infrastructure in various cities and regions across the nation.  However, the Norfolk-Southern received grant funds for their projects including a major hub in the Greater Birmingham area with the Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Rail Project with $244 million.  On the other hand, other regions in the South did receive some funds such as the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority did get $45 million for the Loyola Loop extension of their streetcar system and for the Union Passenger Terminal improvements, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) received $23 million for a downtown streetcar system in Dallas, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation received $48.4 million for the I-244 multimodal bridge replacement in Tulsa, and the National Capital Planning Commission received $58.8 million for priority bus system in the DC metro area.  Here is the link to the full final report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The problems that plague both Birmingham and Atlanta were pretty much their respective state governments doesn't invest in transportation infrastructure outside of roads and bridges.  Although the In-Town Transit Partnership bus rapid transit system would cost $65 million and $6.5 million to operate annually, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) failed to secure the grant most likely due to the lack of allocated funding sources from the state of Alabama and local governments.  The same can be said about the issues plaguing the Atlanta Beltline light rail and streetcar system.  The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), like ALDOT, doesn't allow any funds to go towards public transit, so the Atlanta Regional Commission along with the Friends of the Beltline and the City of Atlanta are vying for the project one their own.  This is the very likely cause for the failure of securing any of the T.I.G.E.R. funds. 

Since the recent loss, the RPCGB has promised to find an alternative source of secured funds to push the In-Town Transit Partnership forward from the drafting table.  Similar efforts have been announced with the officials associated with Atlanta's Beltline. 

All I can say to both entities is, GOOD LUCK.  Considering the economic environment we are in during these times, both cities will be lucky to fund their existing mass transit infrastructure without making massive cuts in service.  Sadly, the BJCTA of Greater Birmingham isn't seeing its best times already with it begging the city of Birmingham to provide them a much needed $9 million in funds to continue its service through the rest of fiscal year after March 30 (which is the 6 month point for FY 2010).  The jackal is about as idiotic as they come, so don't expect any real decisions coming from the mayor's office on the problems with the BJCTA.  Sadly, MARTA is facing a similar crisis with tax revenue slipping from both Fulton and DeKalb counties, and the fact that DeKalb County is facing a financial meltdown that could possibly lead to a layoff or furloughing of county employees (sounds like Jefferson County all over again...).


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