Bad news on the federal front for active transportation. Federal funding potentially available to support future Missoula active transportation projects has been significantly reduced as a result of the federal transportation bill agreed to Thursday June 28. Thanks to everyone who sent messages to our senators and representative over the last several months. Our voices joined thousands from around the country and kept the losses lower than they would have been.
The program that allocates federal transportation dollars to local street safety projects like bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks has morphed into a much more general fund for anything that can be considered an air quality improvement strategy. States have great leeway to shift funds around, and bike/ped projects will have to compete with road projects and much more.
“Transportation Alternatives” (TA) has also absorbed the Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails programs, which used to have their own dedicated funding. And it can be used to fund “planning, designing, or constructing boulevards and other roadways largely in the right-of-way of former Interstate System routes or other divided highways.” The TA funding was reduced from $1.2 billion in FY 2011 to $700 – 750 million.
The bill sets the total funding for the Transportation Alternatives program at two percent of total highway funding out of the Highway Trust Fund (not including the Mass Transit account). Then it splits that amount in half, with one part going to local agencies (which are likely to put it to good use) and the other part going to states for them to allocate through a competitive process unless the state doesn’t feel like it.
Jim Sayer of Adventure Cycling Association said, “We will really need the state-wide group along with BWAM and others to keep some fed money here in MT for biking/walking”
Transportation For America said, “While the Senate had produced a bipartisan, forward-looking bill (MAP-21) with important reforms, it seems that Senate negotiators abandoned many of their own reforms in favor of regressive House changes, simply to get a bill and keep Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash regulation out of the final deal.”
There is lots of commentary and evaluation from national bicycling and active groups available. Read the America Bikes Coalition statement opposing the bill and visit DC Streetsblog, and Transportation for America for more about the bill and it’s affect on biking and walking programs in Missoula and across the nation.