Most People Live in Urban Areas, but Now All the Transportation Money Is Going Rural

©. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images Hmm, this road needs work

The Trump administration is shifting millions from the city mouse to the country mouse.

According to the last census, 80.7 percent of the US population lives in urban areas, defined as "densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas." There is a lot of argument about that definition because small towns in the middle of nowhere are counted as urban, but there is little argument that most of the country is urban or suburban.

Census map: where people live

Census Department/Public DomainSo it would seem not exactly fair that out of the $500 million in TIGER grants for highway and transit projects being distributed this year, 64 percent of the funds are going to projects in rural areas, even though only 19 percent of the population lives there. It's three times as much as was distributed by President Obama to rural areas. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is focusing on areas of the country that have been neglected.

“For years and years and years, for decades, rural America has been ignored and forgotten,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a recent House committee hearing, one of several frosty exchanges with representatives of suburbs and cities, who warn that the administration is shortchanging densely populated areas and mass transportation in favor of rural roads.

After all, why pay for transit when you can fund "$10 million for repair of erosion from all-terrain vehicles on trails leading to Nelson Island in Alaska." Oh, and upgrading Oklahoma rail bridges to accommodate coal shipments. During the Obama administration, most grants went toward boosting transit and dealing with problems in cities. But they generally voted for Hillary.

“Problems related to transportation in the United States are largely related to congestion,” which primarily affects cities and suburbs, said Yonah Freemark, who studies transportation and urban policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s not to say rural areas shouldn’t get help, but the idea they should be prioritized over urban areas is a little surprising—though perhaps given the political considerations, not so surprising.”

So if you are driving near Dog Valley Pass in rural Utah, you will have $15 million in new climbing lanes. But if you live in the city or the suburbs, you are out of luck.