Enabling Better Access to Federal Transportation Funds for Small and Rural Communities

Author: Beth Osborne


Most federal transportation funds are distributed to state and regional transportation entities by a legislatively set formula for different types of transportation. An exception to this rule is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) "Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development" (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program (formerly known as the TIGER program). The BUILD program is extremely flexible, with funding available for any kind of surface-transportation project and any government agency, and it the only transportation program that provides direct capital support to local transportation projects. This flexibility has made the BUILD program incredibly popular, receiving 10 times more applications than can be funded. However, the application process is extensive and can require outside assistance to produce, making the application itself too expensive for some areas to take on, especially considering the high level of competition. USDOT should create a simpler application that most public agencies can manage with internal staff to make the program more universally available to communities of all sizes and levels of capacity.

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About the Author

Beth Osborne is the Director of Transportation for America. She previously worked at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy since 2009. At DOT, Beth managed the TIGER Discretionary Grant program, the Secretary’s livability initiative, the development of the Administration’s surface transportation authorization proposal, and the implementation of MAP-21. Before joining DOT, Beth worked for Senator Tom Carper (DE) as an advisor for transportation, trade and labor policy, as the policy director for Smart Growth America and as legislative director for environmental policy at the Southern Governors’ Association. She began her career in Washington, DC, in the House of Representatives working as a legislative assistant for Representative Ron Klink (PA-04) and as legislative director for Representative Brian Baird (WA-03).