The Department of Transportation will join with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to decide how to allocate some money from the DOT’s “TIGER II” infrastructure grant account.
That is part of what the departments call “a groundbreaking collaborative effort designed to help foster planning for more livable, sustainable communities.”
Their partnership will have DOT help allocate $40 million of HUD’s “Sustainable Community Challenge Grants,” on top of $35 million in planning grants they will jointly pick from DOT’s second round of funding for the “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” program.
The departments had warned stakeholders months ago that they might take this step, when the DOT first published its guidance on the TIGER II grants. Those were allocated by Congress for the department to spend in the current budget year, and follow the original $1.5 billion DOT discretionary grant account from last year’s stimulus law.
But the issue has stirred controversy within some of the traditional highway and freight stakeholder groups that rely on DOT money to improve infrastructure. Some say focusing on nontraditional concerns such as community “livability” takes money and attention away from road construction.
However, Vice President Joseph Biden said that by having DOT and HUB work together on some of the grants they issue “their investments will strengthen communities by connecting housing and transportation options, increasing economic opportunities, promoting environmental sustainability and improving their overall quality of life.”
LaHood said “this is another example of the Obama administration giving the American taxpayer a bigger bang for the buck. The winners will be the people who live in communities and have access to travel options that better serve them.”
The agencies said their joint planning can increase the efficiency of local transportation, and will “reward areas that are planning more innovative projects that coordinate housing, economic development and transportation investments.”
They said the planning could develop a freight corridor in a manner that tries to reduce conflicts with residential areas, passenger vehicle lanes and non-motorized traffic. “In this type of project,” they said, “DOT might fund the transportation planning activities along the corridor, and HUD might fund changes in the zoning code to support appropriate siting of freight facilities and route the freight traffic around town centers, residential areas and schools.”
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