By Anna Lothson
The last round of federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants didn't fall in favor of Oak Park.
But local officials will soon be discussing if there's a project that can help set Oak Park apart for the highly competitive opportunity to snag federal funds.
The program, commonly referred to as TIGER grants, provided through the U.S. Department of Transportation is "seeking transportation projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a region, a metropolitan area and projects." The DOT recently announced a fifth round availability of $474 million.
This includes funding for items that improve existing transportation facilities and systems; contribute to American competitiveness; create American economic competitiveness; create and preserve jobs; increase transportation choice and access to transportation services for people in communities across the U.S.; improve efficiency, reduce dependency on oil, and reduce greenhouse emissions and projects that improve safety.
Oak Park has taken a bite at the past few rounds of TIGER grants but wasn't chosen. The failure to be selected in the fourth round yielded some criticism from trustees, especially Ray Johnson who said former village President David Pope gave Oak Parkers and the board strong reason to believe the village was in prime position to receive funds. Johnson said in an interview with Wednesday Journal last summer that regardless of federal funding, village projects, like its 100-year-old waterlines, needs upgrading. Grant money always streamlines processes, but Johnson emphasized that necessary projects need to be pushed forward.
Johnson was critical of the process last time because the board wasn't strongly engaged until the application was submitted. But it appears that won't happen again.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said in a conversation Monday that staff is discussing options of how to present certain projects that could be eligible to be proposed for possible TIGER grant funds.
"We'll do what we have to at staff level and push it forward to the village board," Pavlicek said.
She said it hasn't been determined what format that would be, but said staff is currently developing a strategy. One way, Pavlicek said, could be to ask the board to pass a resolution approving an application prepared by staff.
Pavlicek said no specific projects have been named yet, but said the issue will come to the board very soon because the grant application deadline is June 3.