T4America Blog

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Senate transportation appropriations bill adheres to local leaders’ call to fund TIGER, public transit and passenger rail

The annual transportation and housing appropriations bill – known as T-HUD – was approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee and contains good news for transportation. The annual spending bill fully funds FAST Act-authorized programs receiving support from the Highway Trust Fund and funds important competitive programs such as TIGER, public transit construction grants, and intercity passenger rail.

Earlier this year, T4America—in partnership with over 170 elected officials and local, civic, and business leaders from 45 states—sent a powerful message to congressional appropriators that the competitive TIGER and New Starts programs are crucial local economic prosperity and competitiveness. The letter urged Congress to include at least $500 million for TIGER transportation grants as well as the full $2.3 billion authorized in last year’s FAST Act for the ‘New Starts’ public transit construction program. Senate appropriators listened and provided $525 million for TIGER and $2.3 billion for New Starts in the FY2017 T-HUD bill.


The Senate bill increases funding for the TIGER program by $25 million, for a total of $525 million for FY17, of which $25 million is reserved for planning grants. This is a big win for a couple of reasons.

First, the TIGER competitive grant program is one of the few ways that local communities can apply for and win funds for their priority projects, helping to get smart, locally-supported projects with a high return on investment off the ground. The TIGER competition ensures the best projects receive funds based on merit and cost-benefit analyses, and provides a level of accountability and transparency not currently available in many statewide transportation programs.

Second, TIGER was not even authorized in the five-year FAST Act, making it all the more important that this vital program receive strong support this year.

Public transit

TIGER isn’t the only crucial program up in the air. The federal government’s primary resource for supporting new, locally planned and supported transit expansion projects was up for consideration. The Senate T-HUD bill fully funds the New Starts program in FY17 with $2.3 billion.

Passenger rail

The FAST Act authorized passenger rail programs along with the larger highway and transit authorizations for the first time ever. The Senate T-HUD bill continues support for passenger rail by providing $1.4 billion for Amtrak, and for the first time since 2010, allocating competitive funds for safety, state of good repair for the Northeast Corridor, and operating and capital support for restored or new passenger service throughout the rest of the country. The Senate Appropriations Committee has placed a heavy emphasis on safety and short-line railroads in FY17.

Next Steps

The transportation funding bill now heads to the Senate floor for further consideration, with action likely starting this week. The House has yet to introduce its FY17 T-HUD bill, a measure that could get stalled by disagreement from party leaders over their broader budget blueprint. T4America will continue keeping a close watch as the critical annual FY17 spending bill progresses.