BUILDing Complete Streets

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By now it’s well known that the Trump administration is no friend to transit funding. (If this is news to you, see here, here, and here). Even the BUILD grant program—which was originally designed to fund complex, multimodal projects—has been warped by the administration’s focus on roads. Traditional roads and highways have received the most grant dollars since the Trump administration took control of the program in 2017.

Our Taming the TIGER analysis showed how the BUILD program changed after two years with the Trump administration in charge.

The administration recently announced the latest round of BUILD grant recipients (which would be BUILD II if added to the graph above) and the story is much of the same: traditional road projects received the largest share of funding, while transit saw a further decrease—from around 10 percent of funding in 2018 to less than 7 percent. Freight held steady at just under 20 percent.

But there is a bit of a silver lining: Complete Streets & other multimodal projects racked up almost a third of the BUILD funding, the highest percentage such projects have received under the Trump administration. This is also particularly notable given the worrying rise in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities across the country, attributable in large part to the lack of safe infrastructure on our roadways for people without cars.

Among the Complete Streets grants this year is $20 million for the Orange County Local Alternative Mobility Network Project outside Orlando. The project will upgrade existing pedestrian and bicycle paths while constructing “shared mobility lanes,” shelter and naturally shaded environments, new wayfinding, and a transit hub. It will also fund “autonomous vehicle infrastructure facilitating local adoption of AVs.” Another multimodal project, The Underpass Project at Uptown Station in Normal, IL, received a $13 million grant and builds on one of the first projects ever funded through the TIGER program. In 2009, Normal, IL received a grant to build a new Amtrak station and civic space that has been a boon for the entire city. A decade later, this new grant will excavate a path for pedestrians, bicyclists, and passengers under the train tracks and allow a second boarding platform to be constructed.

And while transit only received a tiny sliver of the overall funding, some important projects got a nod, like a new BRT line in Memphis, TN that received $12 million for 28 new stations, nine electric buses, and charging equipment.

The BUILD program is one of the only funding options for innovative, complex, or multi-jurisdictional projects that can be difficult to fund with traditional federal transportation programs. But the Trump administration has made it harder for those projects to receive funding by favoring roads over everything else. Read our full analysis—Taming the TIGER—to see how Congress can help ensure BUILD lives up to its full potential.

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