Fighting for TIGER: Thousands of Trail Supporters Speak Out

Posted 06/13/14 by Leeann Sinpatanasakul in Taking Action, Policy

Photo CC Radloff via Flickr

On Monday, we asked trail users like you to support TIGER, a critical federal program that supports investments in trails, walking and biking. In just a few hours, thousands of you wrote to your representatives, and thanks to your swift action, support for TIGER has only grown.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER program, is a federal grant program. It gives communities the freedom and flexibility to invest in their unique transportation needs, whether that is a marine port upgrade, a new bus center or 10 miles of new paved trail. TIGER grants have provided approximately $153 million to pedestrian and bicycle projects alone, with hundreds of millions of dollars more awarded to projects that have walking or biking as a component. The grants can have a profound, positive impact on communities, helping families connect to jobs, giving children a safe way to get to school and strengthening local economies by moving products and goods.

Every year, Congress decides how much general revenue will be dedicated to TIGER. This year, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee not only slashed funding for the program in their annual budget bill, but also restricted eligible projects to just three types: roads (including bridges and tunnels), ports and freight rail. This decision ignores the significance and importance of walking, biking and public transit in America, even going so far as to declare them “unessential.” It was a clear swipe at walking, biking and trail projects, which is why RTC, working with members of Congress, sprang into action. 

In committee, Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.-04) proposed an amendment to restore all the eligibilities to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development budget bill. It garnered support but was ultimately defeated. When the bill reached the House floor, we asked RTC members to urge their representative to advocate for trails, walking, biking and the TIGER program. 

As a result, 15 representatives spoke out passionately and loudly in support of restoring all eligibilities. Led by Reps. David Price (N.C.-04) and Mike Quigley (Ill.-05), the “TIGER line” of representatives stood up one after the other to “Strike the Last Word” and ask the House to restore all eligibilities and funding to TIGER. It was inspiring to see so many members of Congress ready, organized and passionately speaking out for trails, walking and bicycling. 

Ultimately, the House passed the bill (H.R. 4745) with wording that strips walking, biking and transit eligibilities from TIGER, but the organized effort of those 15 representatives was still a win. Your voices as constituents, and the voices of your representatives who spoke out, showed that there are many who believe bicycle and pedestrian projects have a place in TIGER and in America’s transportation future. When the bill text is negotiated between the House and the Senate, it will put supporters of walking and biking in a favorable position to restore those eligibilities to TIGER. 

It should also be noted that as a result of your actions, several representatives who were not able to join the “TIGER line” on Monday night reached out to RTC the next day and expressed an interest in supporting trails, walking and biking in future legislation. To everyone who wrote in: Thanks for your support! This is a perfect example of how contacting your elected officials can have an impact on policy decisions. In short, never doubt that your voice can make a difference. The fight for trails, walking and biking in TIGER isn’t over yet, and RTC will continue to follow this important issue. Stay tuned!

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