Philly goes TIGER grant-less for first time, Camden scores $16.2 million

Philadelphia’s TIGER win streak is over.

During the Nutter Administration, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities had an unparalleled run at winning Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, securing funds in every round of the highly competitive federal infrastructure funding program. Philadelphia was the only city to win at least one grant in the program’s first seven rounds, so in some regards, it was bound to end.

Still, it’s a less-than-promising omen for the office, newly constituted in the Kenney Administration as the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS). Kenney installed former Streets and Revenue Commissioner Clarena Tolson to lead OTIS, and Tolson brought on two of her top aides from the Revenue Department to help her run it. Unlike the office’s prior leadership, none have a deep background in transportation planning. Still, most of the old staff—the folks who actually write the grant proposals—remain, so it’s hard to blame a name and leadership change for the loss.

The grants are incredibly competitive: This round 535 city and state agencies applied, cumulatively asking for $9.3 billion out of the $500 million available, which was divvied up among 40 winners.

OTIS requested $17.9 million for improvements and extensions to the city’s trail network. The Kenney Administration will try to start it’s own TIGER win streak next year, said spokesperson Lauren Hitt.

“We are lucky that it’s even notable that we didn’t receive funding this year,” Hitt wrote in an emailed statement. “We will continue to work with partners to put forth high-quality applications for TIGER and other competitive transportation funding sources. In that vein, we are excited that the city received $7.4 million in competitive CMAQ funding, out of the $21 million available to the 5 county region.”

OTIS wasn’t the only loser around here. Despite changing the Market-Frankford Line’s 5th Street Station to 5th Street Station/Independence Hall, SEPTA didn’t win the $7.8 million it hoped for to help cover renovations there.

However, SEPTA did, in a way, secure $10 million. Technically, it was the Delaware Transit Corporation that received the $10 million for replacing the Claymont, DE Regional Rail station. Delaware compensates SEPTA its operations in the First State and maintains ownership of the Regional Rail stations there.  A new Claymont Transportation Center will be built just a mile from the old station to the tune of approximately $40 million. The new transportation center will anchor transit oriented development and will feature improved, raised platforms for quicker boarding times.

There was no joy for the DRPA, though. For a second time, denial met the DRPA’s request for money to reopen the PATCO station underneath Franklin Square. The DRPA sought just $14.2 million this time, a third less than the $21 million sought last year, of the estimated $26.2 million cost to reopen a station that independent consultants say would result in no increase in overall ridership.  

DRPA CEO John Hanson said he was “disappointed”, but that the proposal remains on the table. “The Philadelphia metropolitan region is experiencing tremendous growth and activity and Franklin Square is no exception. The project is currently funded in our capital program and we are working with our board to make a final decision about how to proceed with this important project.”

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) also made a pair of rejected requests: $51.5 million for the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, and $25.5 million for the Southport Marine Terminal Development. PRPA has been entertaining proposals for building a new port facility at the Southport site next to the Navy Yard, and is scheduled to announce a winning bid in December.

In addition to Claymount, Camden was the another TIGER winner in the region. Across the river, Camden won $16.2 million to rebuild a network of streets to better connect North Camden with the downtown through improvements to the 7th Street bridge and along Cooper Street.

Coincidentally, Philadelphia matches it’s baseball team when it comes to Tiger-related wins: The Phillies have beaten the Detroit Tigers 7 times in the team’s history, the same number of TIGER rounds in which Philly secured at least one grant. The Phils also have 11 losses, though, a record OTIS will surely try to avoid.

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