As the US House debates how to cut spending, one thing is clear: The goal is to cut, and not to make rational decisions.
As a case in point, the House voted to eliminate TIGER, a program that awarded $2 billion in grants to innovative state and local programs last year. TIGER stands for “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery,” and was intended to promote innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects evaluated on environmental and economic benefit. This is a different model than has been used for transportation funding in general. Most transportation dollars are awarded based on arbitrary formulas, and siloed projects that look at single investments — roads, highway, bicycle, transit, etc. TIGER provided a model that encouraged targeted investment evaluated on a project’s ability to improve quality of life and reduce time in traffic.
With limited funds and a crumbling national infrastructure, it makes sense to ask how we can rethink our system, rather than just repaving what’s there without improvements, or asking if there are ways to improve the infrastructure using similar funding. It’s already clear that there are major issues spending the kind of money needed to maintain existing infrastructure, so it makes sense to use the money more intelligently and in ways that provide future opportunity. However, maintaining a program like TIGER would require non-partisan action and vision that may be lacking.