October 30, 2015 - TRA Newswire

(Austin) - The Texas Department of Transportation has been awarded more than $20 million in federal TIGER* grants to improve transportation services for rural populations. The funding will help replace 325 vehicles located throughout the state that are used to transport rural residents. The funds also will go toward updating or constructing transportation facilities in or near the following Texas cities: South Padre Island, Early, Weatherford and Cedar Creek.

$500 million in funding was made available by The U.S. Department of Transportation  (USDOT) in the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.  627 eligible applications were received for a total of $10.1 billion in transportation projects in this seventh round. That turned out to be twenty times the competitive grant program's available funding. U.S. Transportation Anthony Foxx posted in his Fast Lane blog that grants were awarded to 39 projects in 34 states and some were multi-state projects.

“Our rural residents rely on these transportation services to commute between jobs, school, doctor’s appointments and other destinations that help them maintain their independence while also contributing to the economy,” said TxDOT Executive Director LtGen Joe Weber, USMC (Ret). “Without this funding, more than 70 percent of the rural fleet used for such transit services would be outdated by 2017. We are pleased to be able to assist these communities in continuing these important transportation services with updated vehicles and facilities designed to keep people moving safely and comfortably.”

“We congratulate the citizens of Texas, who are the true winners in obtaining these highly competitive TIGER grant funds,” said Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “The new buses, vans and transit facilities will be a lifeline in rural areas of the state for residents who rely on public transportation and deserve safe and reliable transit services.”

With more than 6 million residents living outside urban areas, Texas has the largest rural population in the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, the state’s rural population grew by 7.5 percent. Many of the areas served by rural transportation services have populations that are proportionally older, lower income and often have a higher percentage of people with disabilities.

There were no TIGER grants announced for rail projects in Texas although there are numerous short line railroad upgrades and several choke points for rail traffic in the state that have yet to be addressed either by the legislature or through federal grants. Last October the Texas Transportation Commission has identified 10 critical freight rail projects totaling $504 million. None were considered by state lawmakers in this year's session. There were no passenger rail projects brought forward either.