Congress’s Omnibus Spending Bill Could Potentially Mean Good News for Downtown Durham | News
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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Congress’s Omnibus Spending Bill Could Potentially Mean Good News for Downtown Durham

Posted by on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 3:01 PM

The $1.3 trillion spending bill being rushed through Congress ahead of tomorrow’s deadline is a complex, multifaceted thing, some twenty-two hundred pages long, with countless goodies tucked into its nooks and crannies. As we reported this morning, it lifts a prohibition—or, depending on whom you ask, a quasi-prohibition—on federal funding for gun-violence research, something local congressman David Price has been seeking for years. It is also the military-industrial complex’s dream come true, and it throws just enough money at border security to let President Trump beat his chest about the dumb wall.  But the more time we have to dig into the bill, the more we’re learning about some of its more buried items. And one of them could change the contours of downtown Durham.

Last year, as the INDY reported, the city applied for a $12 million federal TIGER grant to make the hated one-way loop, which was designed to “funnel people through downtown,” as the city explained in a press release, but “does not support pedestrians, bicyclists or transit users who want to safely get around downtown or the businesses and retailers in the City’s central business district.”

If the city was awarded the grant, it planned to use the money to change pavement markings, modify traffic signals, and construct roundabouts.

But last week, this year’s TIGER grants—which focused on rural projects—were announced, and the loop wasn’t among them. The only North Carolina project that did get funded, in fact, was a $20 million investment into Raleigh’s Blue Ridge Road, a shovel-ready project.

Durham would have to wait for the next go-round to apply again.

One potential problem: President Trump proposed zeroing out TIGER grant funding, which is about $500 million nationwide. But in the omnibus, that grant money isn’t eliminated; instead, it’s tripled, to $1.5 billion for the next year.

And with a bigger trough, there’s room for more hands.

“We applied two previous times for funding for the conversion of the downtown loop to no avail,” Durham transportation director Terry Bellamy told the INDY in an email, “but the project continues to support multi-modalism in Durham. If funding becomes available in a future TIGER grant opportunity, we would work internally to resubmit due to the impact of economic development that is happening in the City of Durham.”

Now, says Matt Gleddek, Downtown Durham Inc.’s director of policy and planning, the city just has to wait for the feds to open up the application process again.

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