More infrastructure: does desperation for capital push local officials to apply for grants with projects that don't really qualify?
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story, "Pittsburgh officials fail to secure federal grant for development of Civic Arena site," about how a proposed project in Pittsburgh, decking over Crosstown Boulevard to facilitate the redevelopment of the old hockey arena site in the Hill District, for which there is a plan to put in a street grid, a new headquarters for US Steel, and 1,000 units of housing, wasn't successful in its application for $15 million as part of the US Department of Transportation TIGER grant program, which aims to fund "innovative transportation projects" around the country.
The parking lot is the site of the old arena. PPG photo by David Sapp.
The story says that the Convention Authority will continue to submit applications to this funding source, and that they don't need to secure funds until 2017, giving them more time.
It is an illustration of the need, maybe, for more funding sources for local infrastructure projects, but it's a small project not requiring a whole lot of money ($21 million is the total needed) and there are other funding sources anyway.
More importantly, this project strikes me as a straight up development project with limited transportation elements--TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery and a cursory review of the projects that were just funded shows that each project has clear transportation components and benefits--and could be funded in a number of ways, including through the creation of an "urban renewal district" or "tax increment financing district," where in either case, financing would be obtained by selling bonds against the anticipated increase in tax revenues generated by the new development.
Alternatively, Community Development Block Grants or loans from HUD are another, in my opinion more appropriate, source of funding for such a project.