New Federal Transportation Bill a Major Setback for Safety

 

Congress has approved a two-year federal funding bill for transportation projects, known as "MAP-21." President Obama signed the bill into law.

The Bottom line: this bill is bad for bicycling. It significantly reduces the already paltry amounts available to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety in the US.

  • The major funding programs for bike-ped projects we've come to rely on (Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trails Program) have been combined into a new program called "Transportation Alternatives." There are lots of other eligible activities that can be funded under this new TA program, so bike-ped requests will have lots of competition.
  • Worst of all, states can "opt out" and transfer up to 50% of their Transportation Alternatives Program funding to any other use without explanation. The rest of the funds will be distributed directly to MPOs for areas with a population over 200,000.
  • As America Bikes notes, "The state opt-out provision is a major blow to funding levels. A state that chooses to opt out can use this funding for any program with no additional restrictions. Even a state DOT that cares about biking and walking may be tempted to have unrestricted funding for highway uses. Keeping this funding for biking and walking will require significant advocacy at the state level."

What Next?

We will be working closely with GDOT to see that  they do not "opt out" of using the statewide 50% share of the Transportation Alternatives money.We will also push for them to 1) prioritize bike-ped projects through the TA program and 2)  spend up the rest of GA's remaining TE & SRTS money before it expires in September.

Local advocates can help our efforts by reaching out to their State Transportation Board members (the governing body for GDOT) and reiterating that GDOT should commit to not "opt out" of using the statewide 50% share of the Transportation Alternatives money.

For a very thorough analysis of MAP-21 as it relates to funding for bicycle projects, visit the America Bikes blog.

For even more info and even a little optimism, see the League of American Bicyclist's blog and StreetsBlog DC.