Federal Transportation Policy

MRPA POLICY POSITION

  • Support dedicated funding for Active Transportation options, including trails and pedestrian projects primarily through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), Safe Routes to Schools and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Combined, these programs, found in the federal surface transportation bill “MAP-21”, provide approximately $800 million annually for walking and biking projects to promote pedestrian and bicycling safety in local communities. MAP-21 is due to expire in May 2015.
  • Co-sponsor H.R. 199: Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Act. This legislation would provide local communities with low-cost loans to build safe and accessible networks of sidewalks, bikes lanes and paths as part of the federal transportation financing program known as TIFIA. Twenty-five percent of the loan financing for this program must be used to help low-income communities.

Background

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report the following bad news: (1) The Highway Trust Fund is no longer generating enough revenue to fund existing obligations under the federal transportation program (MAP-21); and (2) the projected annual shortfall – cost to simply maintain existing funding levels for MAP-21 and extend the law for another year after it expires this May -- is anticipated to be between $13 and $19 billion annually.

The bottom line: If Congress doesn’t act sometime before June, nearly all of the federal transportation programs, including the walking, biking and safety projects funded through it, will come to grinding halt later this year, placing hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs at risk.

Even with all the discussion about funding, it’s important to note that currently, just 1.5 percent of federal transportation spending goes to build sidewalks, trails and bikeways. Meanwhile, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data reports biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips, and bicyclists and pedestrians represent 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. Eliminating the tiny percentage of funding for bicycling and walking projects may worsen the existing discrepancy between funding, safety, and number of trips made by foot and bike.

Available funding for bike and pedestrian projects has gone from $1.2 billion to approximately $800 million, and this funding is no longer specifically dedicated to bike and pedestrian projects. Not only is there less funding, there is increased competition for the funding as more projects are now eligible to receive it.

A 2013 Princeton Survey Research Associates survey of 1,000 Americans found that 83 percent of all respondents support maintaining or growing the amount of federal transportation funding that helps build sidewalks, bike lanes and bike paths. The results crossed political lines with 88 percent of Democrats; 80 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Independents all supporting continued or growing funding for walking and biking.

During the reauthorization process, elimination of funding for TE, RTP and SRTS programs was seriously considered. Given the concern over how to fund the next surface transportation bill and the general climate favoring reduced spending, it is likely there will be another attempt to eliminate or significantly reduce funding for bike and pedestrian projects.

NRPA recently released two (2) new studies highlighting the impact Active Transportation plays in promoting Economic Activity, Health & Wellness, and Social Equity in local communities:

  • Active Transportation and Parks and Recreation
  • Sage Routes to Parks: Improving Access to Parks through Walkability

Please visit: www.nrpa.org/research-papers/  to download your free copy