Trump’s budget derails hopes of expanding Detroit’s streetcar system

A Qline streetcar takes a test run on Woodward in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding to expand Detroit’s streetcar system on Woodward Avenue.

The news comes less than two months before the QLine is schedule to begin carrying passengers on a 3.3-mile track from New Center to downtown. Local officials had hoped to obtain additional federal grants to expand the track by about 20 miles to the suburbs.

That won’t happen if Congress approves Trump’s proposal to eliminate Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, a nearly $500 million program that funds buses, streetcars and long-distance passenger rail. Detroit received $37.2 million in TIGER grants to help pay for the roughly $135 million streetcar system.

Local officials and transit advocates hope to persuade Congress to preserve the program.

Streetcar expansion plans are in jeopardy in other cities, including Kansas City and Sacramento.

If approved, the TIGER grants would be eliminated in October.

Overall, Trump has proposed a 13% cut in transportation spending.
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“The proposal completely eliminates the popular TIGER competitive grant program that has funded more than 400 transformational projects spanning all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” said Adrea Turner, director of T4America, which advocates for transportation solutions. “The program leverages billions to accelerate key projects that drive local, regional and state economic development. Through the first five rounds of funding, TIGER projects brought 3.5 other dollars to the table for each federal dollar awarded. Despite the budget proposal’s recommendation for these communities to apply for funding from other freight programs, these programs are either not multimodal at all or have caps on the funding for non-highway projects.”
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Turner added, “Our nation’s infrastructure serves as the backbone for economic growth and prosperity. The Administration’s proposed budget falls short of prioritizing investment in the local communities that are the basic building block of the national economy. We urge leaders to uphold their promise to the American people and reinvest in our nation’s communities.”
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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.