For the last two years, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the City of Ponderay have been preparing to apply for a federal TIGER grant to help fund a much-needed underpass for the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. Without an underpass under the railroad tracks, citizens of Ponderay and Kootenai have no access from their communities to the lakeshore and the trail. As a result, people typically trespass across the busy Montana Rail Link/ BNSF tracks to get to the lake from Ponderay or Kootenai.
Railroad underpasses are extremely expensive, and a federal grant is one of the only ways that Ponderay can afford to build one. The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and Idaho DEQ have spent thousands of dollars on studies to help support this grant application, while the city of Ponderay has purchased property in the vicinity of the proposed underpass. We are nearly ready to apply.
However, the Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal calls for eliminating the popular TIGER grant program, essentially killing our project if Trump’s budget is adopted.
BACKGROUND on TIGER:
The very popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) competitive grant program has funded more than 420 multi-modal infrastructure projects across the country – including all 50 states, both in rural and urban areas since 2009. The program spent more than $5 billion and leveraged billions of dollars to accelerate key projects that drive local, regional and state economic development. These projects aren’t eligible for funding under traditional federal highway or state funding programs.
The Trump administration has suggested that local communities turn to other programs to fund their projects, but those programs are not designed to meet the same needs as TIGER, which funds multi-modal projects, including trails. Projects that have been funded through the rural TIGER program in our region include a $10 million grant to Kalispell, MT, to relocate railroad tracks from downtown and replace them with a linear park and trail. In 2013, Missoula County landed a $4.5 million TIGER grant to build the Missoula to Lolo bike path. In Idaho, TIGER has funded complete streets in American Falls and Hailey, a transit center in Moscow and U.S. Highway 95 improvements.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The budget proposal now goes to Congress and so we can still save TIGER.
Comment online – Tell Congress to fund TIGER.
Write a letter to our Congressional Delegation. If you only want to send one letter, send it to Sens. Jim Risch or Mike Crapo. Here are their addresses:
- Mike Crapo – 610 Hubbard St., Ste. 209 Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814
- Jim Risch – 610 Hubbard St., Ste. 213, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
- Raul Labrador – 1250 Ironwood Dr., #241, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Or you can send an email by going to the Senator’s website or using the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s online Take Action.
Here are a few points to consider including in your letter/email:
- First and foremost, ask them to fund TIGER. TIGER is an important transportation infrastructure funding source for local communities;
- TIGER is very competitive with each project competing on its merits. As a result, the monies are spent very efficiently;
- TIGER encourages local investment and has brought 3.5 other dollars to the table for every federal dollar awarded;
- TIGER supports locally driven economic development opportunities. This is the kind of infrastructure program that improves the local economy and is sustainable over time;
- There are virtually no other federal funding programs to fill the void for TIGER;
- The TIGER program has provisions for rural areas, so communities in Idaho don’t have to compete with large urban areas for funding, but with other rural areas;
- Mention the projects in Idaho that have been funded through TIGER;
- Talk about the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the need for an underpass to allow safe access to Lake Pend Oreille. Eliminating TIGER will likely put a halt to plans to one day provide access from Ponderay and Kootenai to the lake and the trail.