The US Department of Transportation (DOT) took its first steps in early 2010 toward what may be a new approach to funding projects - one that focuses more on multimodal solutions and economic development than on highways and automobile congestion mitigation.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been talking about 'livability' - designing places and transportation systems for transit and walking as well as for car travel. In January he announced that economic development, environmental benefits, and other livability criteria would factor into DOT funding along with the traditional yardsticks of cost and congestion.
DOT showed its seriousness about these goals in late February by awarding $1.5 billion in Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, part of the 2009 stimulus bill. A portion of the Tiger funds went to highways - but to a lesser degree than had been typical in the past. Streetcars, pedestrian/bicycle paths, multimodal transit centers, and transformation of automobile-oriented arterials into "complete streets" also received TIGER money.
Thanks to Renee Brutvan