July Federal Policy Roundup

After a federal policy blog hiatus due to parental leave, we’re back with a roundup of what’s been happening and what to watch for on federal policy related to Safe Routes to School, walking, and bicycling.

Transportation Alternatives Program Implementation

The second quarter of 2023 (ending March 2023) showed that states are making excellent progress in obligating Transportation Alternatives Program funds. At this midpoint in the year, we like to focus on the column that tells us which states have funds at risk of lapsing. States still have two quarters to obligate these funds before they disappear, but advocates in states with funds at risk of lapsing at the end of this fiscal year may wish to connect with their departments of transportation to get a sense of what is happening with these funds. Some states have minimal funds at risk of lapsing, like Hawaii with $217,000, but Texas has over $37 million at risk of lapsing – money that could be spent on valuable infrastructure to support walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to School.

On the positive side, we want to shout out two states that have zero funds at risk of lapsing for the next three years: Idaho and Oregon. Way to go! 21 states have no risk of funds lapsing for the next two years: CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, ND, OH, RI, SD, WA. Even with 60 percent more funds available after the BIL, these states continue to hold timely competitions and work with recipients to move projects through the process. We love to see this!

Find the data in our quarterly tracking report.

Bills We’re Watching and Working

The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Transportation Act (HR 1668) is a bill that aims to give states flexibility to use federal safety funds appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on locally-identified bicycle and pedestrian safety funds. This bill clarifies that the Highway Safety Improvement Program funds eligibility for implementation of projects and strategies identified in Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessments, as the match to Transportation Alternatives Program funds, and to close gaps in bicycle and pedestrian networks.

The bill is named in honor of a US diplomat and mother of two who weeks after being evacuated from her State Department post in Ukraine was killed by a truck driver while riding home after taking her children to school.

Federal Funding Opportunities

Safe Streets for All grants just closed – we hope that many of your communities applied for planning grants that assess comprehensive safety, including around schools.

Earlier this month, USDOT announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program, a funding opportunity that combines Reconnecting Communities and the Neighborhood Equity and Access programs. Over $3 billion is available in funding across three categories:

  • Capital Construction: funding for projects that are “shovel ready”. These construction funds can be used to remedy physical barriers that divide communities from employment, education, and opportunity; address facilities burdening local communities from an environmental justice perspective; build Complete Streets to restore or improve community connectivity.  
  • Community Planning: funding for equitable, community-centered transportation planning focused on restoring community connectivity, public engagement, environmental impact assessments, and the development of local policies to prevent displacement.
  • Regional Partnerships Challenge: funding to strengthen partnerships between local governments, regional transportation planning organizations, state departments of transportation, and/or non-profit and private sector stakeholders focused on equity, mobility, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Applications are due on September 28, 2023. As you contemplate these opportunities, we recommend that only communities with very clear human-made physical barriers impeding community connectivity and mobility apply for Reconnecting Communities funding. Note that topological and natural barriers like rivers or mountains do not qualify; facilities like highways, train tracks, landfills, etc. do qualify.  The Neighborhood Equity and Access grants have broader eligibility for creating or improving access proactively.   

As always, please reach out with your questions, feedback, and ideas: marisa@saferoutespartnership.org