DeSaulnier Calls on Transportation Secretary Chao to Stop Penalizing Urban and Suburban Regions with Reduced Funding

May 22, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) called on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao to reconsider the department’s move to reduce federal investment in urban and suburban areas. DOT recently announced that it plans to award a greater share of federal grants under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program to projects located in rural areas as opposed to those in urban and suburban areas. This shift is already reflected in DOT’s latest round of TIGER grants awarded in March of this year.

“At a time when so many workers in our metropolitan regions are suffering from intolerably long commutes, these drastic measures to cut them off from federal investment seem especially punitive and politically-calculated. Without a more thorough explanation of your intentions behind the sudden change in TIGER grants, the Administration’s ‘commitment to supporting the country’s rural communities’ runs the risk of punishing workers in outlying areas of metropolitan regions—areas that are traditionally rural, but are now the communities providing housing for workers employed in urban-center jobs,” DeSaulnier wrote to Chao.

In FY2017, only 4% of TIGER funding went to transit projects in urban areas, whereas in the previous three fiscal years, transit in urban areas received more than 20% of funding. In each of the 8 years from FY2009 to FY2016, California, representing an eighth of the U.S. population and a seventh of the U.S. GDP, received between 6.9% and 10.1% of the TIGER grants awarded. In FY2017, California’s share dropped to 1.8%.

“This abrupt change suggests that the Administration is formulating policy with an intent to reward certain rural regions and punish urban centers based on political factors,” DeSaulnier wrote.  

Housing shortages in the Bay Area have pushed people out of the region in search of affordability and have driven up the numbers of commuters traveling 90 minutes or more to get to work. In the San Francisco metro area, including the East Bay, super commutes have more than doubled since 2005.

The full text of the letter can be found here.