National Transportation Law and Funding
In 1991, Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA), and ushered in a new era of transportation law and funding. States were given much more flexibility in deciding how to use their federal transportation dollars, and pedestrian and bicycle facilities gained prominence in states' transportation plans. The next national law, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), continued many of the policies introduced in ISTEA. Many states now pay significant attention to the needs of cyclists and walkers, often with Departments of Transportation partnering with Departments of Health to promote healthy, active transportation. Within this framework, Safe Routes to School projects can hope for both financial and policy support.
Congress is currently working on a new national transportation bill. As this publication goes to press, we do not know all of the details of the new law. However, we can take a look backward at the provisions included in TEA-21, and gain some understanding of the various parts of the law that might afford support for SR2S projects. The following information was taken from a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publication entitled “A Summary: Bicycle and Pedestrian Provisions of the Federal Aid Program.”
TEA-21 increased transportation spending by more than 40 percent without altering the basic funding programs and planning system created in 1991 by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). There have been some changes to the way the programs will function as follows:
Federal-Aid Highway Program:
National Highway System (NHS) funds may be used to construct bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways on land adjacent to any highway on the National Highway System. The Interstate Maintenance and NHS programs have almost $60 billion over the six years of the law.
Surface Transportation Program (STP) (Section 1108) funds may be used for either the construction of bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways, or nonconstruction projects (such as maps, brochures, and public service announcements) related to safe bicycle use. TEA-21 lists “the modification of public sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act” as an activity that is specifically eligible for the use of these funds. Approximately $33 billion is authorized for this program over the six years of the legislation (Section 1101(a)(4)).
Transportation Enhancement Activities (TEAs) (Section 1201, paragraph 35) funds are a 10 percent set aside from each state's annual STP funds (total is approximately $3.3 billion). Provision of facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the preservation of abandoned railroad corridors (including the conversion and use thereof for bicycle or pedestrian trails), remain eligible activities. Among the changes were:
a) The range of eligible activities was expanded to include:
b) The definition of a transportation enhancement activity includes the phrase “if such activity relates to surface transportation” to try and ensure a transportation purpose for each project.
c) The 80 percent federal matching requirement now applies only to the total non-federal share of all projects in a State rather than each individual project. In addition, there is continued flexibility for what funds and services may be credited to the non-federal share.
Hazard Elimination and Railway-Highway Crossing Programs (Section 1401) are another ten percent set aside of each State's STP funds. Bicycling and pedestrian safety are now eligible for funding in this category. In addition, the definition of a “public road” now includes a publicly owned bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail and traffic calming measures. Each State is required to implement a Hazard Elimination Program to identify and correct locations that may constitute a danger to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Funds may be used for activities including:
a) A survey of hazardous locations and
b) Projects on any publicly owned bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail, or
c) Any safety-related traffic calming measure. Improvements to railway-highway crossings “shall take into account bicycle safety.”
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) (Section 1110) funds may be used for either the construction of bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways, or non-construction projects (such as maps, brochures, and public service announcements) related to safe bicycle use. Approximately $8.12 billion is authorized for the six years of the law. Fifty percent of the funds a state receives in excess of the amount they get when the program is funded at $1.353 billion per year (which happens in FY 2000) may be transferred into other programs (Section 1310).
Recreational Trails Program (RTP) (Section 1112) funds may be used for all kinds of trail projects. Of the funds apportioned to a State, 30 percent must be used for motorized trail uses, 30 percent for non-motorized trail uses, and 40 percent for diverse trail uses (any combination). Annual funding in FY 2000 and beyond is $50 million per year.
Federal Lands Highway Program funds may be used to construct bicycle and pedestrian transportation facilities in conjunction with roads, highways, and parkways on or adjacent to Federal Land. Priority for funding is determined by the appropriate Federal Land Agency or Tribal government.
National Scenic Byways Program funds may be used for construction of a facility along a scenic byway for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Job Access and Reverse Commute Grants are available to support projects, including bicycle-related services, designed to transport welfare recipients and eligible low-income individuals to and from employment.
High Priority Projects and Designated Transportation Enhancement Activities identified by TEA-21 include numerous bicycle, pedestrian, trail, and traffic calming projects in communities throughout the country. The legislation contains more than 1,850 high priority projects of which approximately 112 have a bike, pedestrian, or trail element to them. Funding for these projects is almost $200 million.
Federal Transit Program:
Title 49 U.S.C. (as amended by TEA-21) allows the Urbanized Area Formula Grants, Capital Investment Grants and Loans, and Formula Program for Other than Urbanized Area transit funds to be used for improving bicycle and pedestrian access to transit facilities and vehicles. Eligible activities include investment in “pedestrian and bicycle access to a mass transportation facility” that establishes or enhances coordination between mass transportation and other transportation.
TEA-21 also created a Transit Enhancement Activity program with a one percent set aside of Urbanized Area Formula Grant funds designated for, among other things, pedestrian access and walkways, and “bicycle access, including bicycle storage facilities, and installing equipment for transporting bicycles on mass transportation vehicles.”
Highway Safety Programs:
Pedestrian and bicyclist safety remain priority areas for State and Community Highway Safety Grants funded by the Section 402 formula grant program. A State is eligible for these grants by submitting a Performance plan (establishing goals and performance measures for improving highway safety), and a Highway Safety Plan (describing activities to achieve those goals). Funding is approximately $150 million per year rising to $160 million in 2003.
Research, development, demonstrations, and training to improve highway safety (including bicycle and pedestrian safety) is carried out under the Highway Safety Research and Development (Section 403) program. Funding is approximately $72 million per year.
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