TIGER Grant: bringing the University and City together

Tentative diagram of the improvements funded by the TIGER grant. Photo provided by Steve Sauls.

Carlos Coba/ Assistant News Director

A U.S. Department of Transportation discretionary grant program, called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery 2013, appropriated $11.4 million to the University on Sept. 5.

Aerial photo of area where bridge will be built, images of street improvements and bridge. Photos provided by Steve Sauls.

These funds will develop the pedestrian bridge that will connect the University with Sweetwater, and street improvements two blocks north and south of Southwest Eighth Street, on 109th Avenue.

“We didn’t get all the money we requested, but basically we are trying to develop street improvements from the Green Library to the Sweetwater City Hall,” said Steve Sauls, vice president of Governmental Relations.

According to Facilities Planning, the specifics behind the grant’s funding, meaning how much will fund the pedestrian bridge and how much will fund the street improvements, are still in discussion. The only approved figure is the total amount of the grant.The DOT’s official project description, found online, states that, “These infrastructure improvements will support the economic growth of a major public research university and an adjacent small city [Sweetwater].”

However, Robert Griffith, director of Facilities Planning, asserts that the scope of the projects funded by the TIGER Grant transcends financial outcomes.

“FIU is outreaching to help the community of Sweetwater as well, it’s not just creating a market for economic development,” said Griffith.

Stuart Grant, coordinator of Facilities Planning, underlines the most direct benefit that this grant’s developments will bring to students.

“The bridge is a safe way of getting across Southwest Eighth [Street],” said Grant.

Some students agree with Grant.

“It’s convenient for student pedestrians because they won’t have to worry about street lights while crossing the street,” said Annelise Ferrer, liberal studies senior.

There were 52 projects across 37 states that received funds through the DOT’s TIGER grants in 2013 and the University was the only of its kind in the list of recipients, according to the official DOT website.

“Universities don’t usually get this kind of grant,” said Grant. “Counties, cities and states do.”

The development and improvements funded by the grant are the takeoff of the UnivesityCity Prosperity Project, an ongoing overarching project between the University, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, Miami-Dade County, the City of Sweetwater, International Business Machines (IBM), T.Y. Lin International and other parties.

The overall purpose of UniversityCity would be to increase the number of the transit riders in the area, improve modes of public transportation, foment pedestrian-oriented commuting within the University-Sweetwater region and provide initiatives for local businesses.

Griffith, an employee at the University for 25 years, believes that UniversityCity marks a change in the way the University has approached its surrounding community for the past decades.

“There used to be a concept that the University should be a suburban development with controlled access,” said Griffith. “The new thinking is that we are part of the community, we are opening our doors to them.”

One of UniversityCity’s main components, apart from those funded by the Tiger Grant, will be a FIU Smart Garage, PG6, that will include its own multi-modal transit hub adjacent to U.S. 41, the Turnpike and Dolphin Expressway.

“I think it’s a good idea because it will benefits those of us who don’t live on or near campus,” said Isaac Chavez, psychology sophomore.

The garage is a commitment by the University to receive the $11.4 million grant and will be funded by revenue bonds. The transit hub to be built inside the parking structure will be built in conjunction with Miami-Dade Transit .

“We, through UniversityCity, are trying to be a catalyst for an urban place,” said Sauls. “We are trying to leverage good academic thinking, transportation and urban design. It will be a work in progress for many years.”


About the Author

Carlos Coba
Assistant News Director of FIUSM. Political Science/ International Relations 2ble major, Journalism minor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies certificate.

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