Sending Office: Honorable Mark DeSaulnier
Co-Sign Letter in Support of Smarter Priorities in National Infrastructure Investments in FY2021 THUD Appropriations
Supported by: Transportation for America and the Environmental Law & Policy Center
Deadline: March 12
Sign on: To sign onto the letter, please fill out the form
The Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program (formerly TIGER) is one of the most popular programs because it was designed to fund innovative and nationally-significant transportation infrastructure projects, which are often difficult
to fund through existing formula programs. In the last three rounds of grants awarded under this program, however, metropolitan regions and nationally significant projects have disproportionately lost out, as key priorities for cities and their surrounding
suburbs have been overlooked.
For example, in the last 3 years, only 10% or less of funding went to transit projects, when in the previous 3 years, transit received up to 40% of funding. The sharp decrease in funding for urban areas and multi-modal transportation is inconsistent with
Congress’s mandate that USDOT “invest in a variety of multiple modes of transportation,” and it has resulted in missed opportunities to fund projects with the potential to revitalize our communities, both urban and rural. Turning BUILD into a local rural road
program that duplicates existing formula funding reduces its effectiveness and limits its usefulness for contributing to economic vitality.
I hope you will join me in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging language to restore the emphasis on multi-modal, transformative projects that are critical to our urban metropolitan regions, the surrounding rural areas, and our national
economy. These projects provide undeniable benefits to job markets, housing accessibility, innovation, congestion relief, and so many others.
The text of the letter is below. If you have any questions about the letter, please contact Allison Johnson in Congressman DeSaulnier’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign onto the letter, please fill out the form
Member of Congress
March XX, 2020
Dear Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Price, and Ranking Member Diaz-Balart:
We are writing to express strong support for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, formerly called Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER). The most recent round of awards continues a pattern in
which the program is oriented away from its purpose of funding projects which are multi-modal, transformative, of national significance, and which are otherwise difficult to fund. This limits the usefulness of the program for local communities and our country.
We appreciate the Committee addressing our concerns in the FY2020 appropriations bill. Again this year, we request report language to ensure the program is operated as intended.
Taken as a whole, the list of recent grant recipients reflects a heavy emphasis on traditional highway projects that could be funded through existing formula programs and through State departments of transportation. The BUILD program was created to support
multi-modal and transit-oriented projects, projects of national significance, and projects that cut across administrative boundaries within the Department of Transportation and that are therefore not easily accomplished through other funding programs. We are
disappointed by the apparent lack of commitment to these types of projects. We are further concerned that the selection process resulted in a missed opportunity to prioritize projects with the potential to revitalize struggling urban centers across the country.
Over the last three rounds of BUILD awards, in FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019, only 10% or less of funding went to transit projects, whereas in the previous three fiscal years, transit received between 28% and 40% of funding. In fact, the FY2019 transit funding
was a meager 6.9% of the total BUILD awards. Furthermore, the amount of funding for complete streets/main streets projects fell to a recent low of 7% in FY2018. Conversely, traditional road projects received an all-time high in FY2018 of 60% and 41.5% in FY2019.
The small amount of funding for multi-modal transportation is inconsistent with Congress’s mandate in the FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019 appropriations laws that USDOT “invest in a variety of multiple modes of transportation.”
Second, the past three rounds of awards have disproportionally favored rural areas. While rural areas deserve transportation investments, disproportionately favoring rural areas harms our urban areas, which are home to the vast majority of Americans. Reflecting
where most Americans live, in each of the eight years from FY2009 to FY2016, urban areas received between approximately 70% and 75% of funding. In FY2017 and FY2018, urban areas only received between 30% and 35% of funding, and in FY2019, these areas received
only 49% of funding. Disproportionately awarding grants in rural areas is again inconsistent with the law.
Despite these challenges, the BUILD program remains one of the most popular and successful infrastructure programs. To further ensure this and future Administrations implement the program as intended, we recommend the following be included in report or statutory
- Encourage USDOT to award planning grants, including for transit-oriented development and transit projects. While recent appropriations bills have made planning grants eligible for funding, such grants have not been awarded. Many local communities desire
investments in transit, transit-oriented development, and other infrastructure, but lack the resources to adequately plan for this investment. Such language could read:
Provided further, that of the amount made available under this heading, the Secretary shall use an amount not less than $15,000,000 for the planning, preparation or design of projects eligible for funding under this heading. The Committee recognizes that
planning support can be critical for local communities seeking investments in infrastructure, including transit and transit-oriented development.
- Strengthen language that USDOT should strive to allocate funding for multi-modal projects, including transit and passenger rail, and an equitable balance between urban and rural areas. Such language could read:
Provided further, that in distributing funds provided under this heading, the Secretary shall take such measures so as to ensure an equitable geographic distribution of funds, an equitable distribution of funds between urban and rural areas, and the investment
in a variety of transportation modes to include public transit and passenger rail.
- Include language requiring the Secretary to consider the impact on rural communities of investments in urban projects when making awards. Such language could read:
Provided further, that the Committee finds that investments in urban areas can provide significant benefits to surrounding areas, including rural areas and that, in distributing funds to provide an appropriate balance in addressing the needs of urban and
rural areas, the Secretary shall consider the benefits of a project to their fullest extent to include all relevant geographic and metropolitan areas.
Thank you for your attention to this request. We look forward to working with you to ensure the BUILD program is successfully implemented for the benefit of our constituents and the local communities we serve.
 See Public Laws 115-141, 115-31, and 116-6.
See also the FY19 BUILD NOFO published in the federal register in April 2019: “DOT must take measures to ensure an… investment in a variety of transportation modes.” 84 Fed. Reg. 16933, 16934 (Apr. 23, 2019).
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