WSDOT awarded $15M for I-5 traffic improvements between Tacoma, Olympia

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday that 46 transportation projects in 33 states and Puerto Rico will receive a total of $511 million from the third round of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s popular TIGER program, which aims to allow communities to move forward with infrastructure projects including road and bridge improvements; transit upgrades; freight, port and rail expansions; and new options for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In Tacoma and Pierce County, $15 million was awarded to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to manage congestion along Interstate 5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The project will add capacity to I-5 by managing demand and providing real time information to drivers on this heavily congested, 15.5-mile-long corridor that borders Joint Base Lewis-McChord between Olympia and Tacoma, where approximately fifteen percent of the traffic in the corridor is freight traffic. The project will deploy innovative traffic management strategies along I-5 and into the Base, and expand traveler information. The project will also add HOV/express bypass lanes at 12 ramp meters.

WSDOT originally requested $27.2 million and argued funding would save $138.8 million in vehicle operating costs, $232.8 million in travel time reliability, and $95 million in freight shipping operational costs. In addition, WSDOT argued the time saved by reducing congestion will increase productivity and add over 2,300 new jobs to the region. This corridor is a critical economic lifeline for freight movement along the entire West Coast corridor of I-5, and directly serves ports throughout the south Puget Sound. The corridor also serves as a key commuter route in the South Sound, linking two of the state’s fastest growing counties (Thurston and Pierce) and providing access to several large regional employment centers. Another major entity in this corridor is Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one of the largest military bases on the West Coast, as well as the third largest employer in the state. JBLM’s key geographic location provides rapid access to Puget Sound deepwater ports and multiple nearby airfields, allowing rapid deployment of troops.

The DOT received 848 project applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, requesting a total of $14.29 billion, far exceeding the $511 million made available for grants under the TIGER III program. The grants will fund a wide range of innovative transportation projects in urban and rural areas across the country. Of the $511 million in TIGER III funds available for grants, more than $150 million will go to critical projects in rural areas. Roughly 48 percent of the funding will go to road and bridge projects, including more than $64 million for Complete Streets projects that aim to spur small business growth and benefit motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Work has already begun on 33 planning projects while 58 capital projects are under way across the country from the previous two rounds of TIGER, and an additional 13 projects are expected to break ground over the next six months. In 2009 and 2010, the Department received a total of 2,400 applications requesting $76 billion, greatly exceeding the $2.1 billion available in the TIGER I and TIGER II grant programs. In the previous two rounds, the TIGER program awarded grants to 126 freight, highway, transit, port and bicycle/pedestrian projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

TIGER grants are awarded to transportation projects that have a significant national or regional impact. Projects are chosen for their ability to contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. The DOT also gives priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate increases in economic activity.

A complete list of grant recipients is online at http://www.dot.gov/tiger/docs/fy2011_tiger.pdf .

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WSDOT seeks federal grant for Pierce County transportation improvement project — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2064370&more=0