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Think of Trump’s Budget as an Attack on Cities

12:02 PM CDT on March 17, 2017

The Red Line bus rapid transit project in Indianapolis, which voters approved as part of a package in November, is one of dozens of projects threatened by Donald Trump’s budget proposal. Image: IndyGo

Yesterday Donald Trump released a budget outline that calls for severe cuts to transit, and the reaction was swift and scathing. The National Association of City Transportation Officials called it "a disaster" for cities. Transportation for America said it was a "slap in the face" for local communities that have raised funds to expand transit.

The budget threatens dozens of transit projects cities have been planning for years and which, in many cases, voters have approved by large margins. Meanwhile, notes Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic, no such cuts are planned for federal highway funding:

The net effect of the budget -- going beyond just the Department of Transportation -- is a massive slashing of support for cities, even as support for suburbs is maintained. While new transit projects would be eliminated from federal funding, the highway formula funds, which support new highway construction, would be retained. The Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, which primarily goes to expanding federal roads, would be continued at $900 million a year.

Linda Bailey, executive director of NACTO, assessed the potential damage and noted that it extends to HUD as well:

The White House has proposed to stop funding transit projects through the New Starts and Small Starts program (Capital Investment Grants), which matches over $2 billion in local funding for rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit projects every year. The budget also envisions eliminating TIGER, an extremely popular program that funds innovative projects with proven benefits in communities in all 50 states. TIGER is already underfunded: just 5% of eligible projects were funded last year. Finally, the proposed elimination of subsidies to Amtrak services, which had record ridership last year, would leave communities around the country without viable national rail connections at a time when we need more connections between our communities, not fewer.

In addition, the White House budget eliminates the Department for Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants program completely, a crucial, flexible source of funding that has improved communities around the country for 42 years. Last year alone, the program created 17,545 jobs.

Community Development Block Grants are a critical source of funding for planning departments, local transportation projects, and affordable housing. Eliminating that $3 billion in support would be a blow to cities of all sizes.

More recommended reading today: Smart Growth America shares a statement from its coalition of urban developers explaining how Trump's budget will likely reduce investment in city housing. And the League of American Bicyclists reports on the meetings between advocates and members of Congress during this year's National Bike Summit.

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