Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced they are pushing to secure a $10.7 million federal grant that would transform the City of Ithaca’s bus system and make improvements to streets downtown, making them more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. This federal funding from the Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant program would be used to transform the key transit routes of Stewart Avenue and College Avenue in the Collegetown commercial area near Cornell University, as well as Cayuga Street and Albany Street. The funding would be used to turn those streets into ‘Complete Streets’ with wider sidewalks, improved transit facilities, bike lanes, and green infrastructure. As part of the project, The City of Ithaca would also integrate new technology into its bus transit operation that will enable the city to provide real-time transit information to passengers, such as vehicle locations and arrival estimates to passengers.
“This federal funding would help transform the City of Ithaca’s bus and overall transportation system by redeveloping the downtown pedestrian mall into a major transportation hub, complete with wider sidewalks, improved bus facilities and new bike lanes,” said Senator Schumer. “This grant would revitalize the Collegetown, Cornell University corridor and update the communications systems that allow passengers to see when buses are arriving and departing. This will not only encourage more residents and visitors to take advantage of bus transportation, but it will also make transit in the City of Ithaca safer and more efficient.”
“Investing in vital infrastructure projects helps set the foundation for economic growth and attracts new businesses and new jobs for middle class families right here where we need it most,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This federal funding would improve Ithaca’s sidewalks and roadways and enhances their bus system, making it more up-to-date and accommodating for residents. I will continue to fight for vital infrastructure projects like this that create good-paying jobs and enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers.”
“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are two of the most powerful voices in the Capitol,” said Svante Myrick, Mayor of Ithaca. “Their decision to advocate for Ithaca’s TIGER grant bodes well for the City in terms of future infrastructure improvements and job creation.”
This push for TIGER grant funding by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand is part of a larger effort by the City of Ithaca to completely rehabilitate and revitalize its transportation system. In 2012, Ithaca took a giant step towards revamping its bus transit system when, after Schumer and Gillibrand’s push, the City was awarded a $4.5 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) State of Good Repair grant and a $1.8 million New York State Regional Economic Development Council grant to reconstruct its downtown Commons pedestrian mall as a transportation hub. This TIGER grant would further add to that by making the downtown Commons-Collegetown/Cornell University transit corridor safer and more accessible to passengers, with wider sidewalks and real-time transit updates with improve communication systems.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Ithaca ranked 7th across the country in 2010 for residents who take public transportation to work. More than 10% of Ithaca’s population depends on bus transit to make their daily commute, compared with 5% nationally. More than 42% of Ithaca’s workers 16 years and over commute by walking compared to 6.4% statewide and 2.8% nationally. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that, given the scale of Ithaca’s dependence on public transportation and non-vehicular modes of travel, it is essential that the City’s transportation system respond to increasing demands.
The TIGER Discretionary Grant program provides an opportunity for DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives. In each round of TIGER, DOT receives many applications to build and repair critical pieces of freight and passenger transportation networks.
Copies of Senator Schumer’s and Senator Gillibrand’s letters of support for this project are attached.