Late last week, Congress passed a bill to continue funding the federal government agencies and programs until the end of December, giving them several more weeks to keep negotiating on spending levels. Also included in that bill, which President Trump signed into law, was language to cancel the pending transportation rescission. As we have discussed a few times in recent months, this $7.6 billion rescission would have likely taken more than one year’s funding away from the Transportation Alternatives Program. Now that Congress has repealed the rescission, we are pleased that states will be able to move forward with asking for TAP applications, selecting projects, and making biking and walking safer and more accessible without the loss of a significant amount of funding.
In other Capitol Hill news, we are grateful to Reps. Espaillat (D-NY) and Larsen (D-WA) for introducing HR 5231, the Transportation Alternatives Enhancements Act. This bill is very similar to the one introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Wicker (R-MS) that led to such strong provisions for TAP in the Senate transportation bill.
Just as the Cardin-Wicker bill proposed, HR 5231 proposes to:
- Increase funding by 40 percent and allow it to grow each year as other transportation spending grows.
- Shift more money to local governments by increasing the proportion of TAP that is allocated by population from 50 percent to 67 percent.
- Give large metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) the ability to obligate TAP projects (i.e. get the projects built) and let small MPOs compete for TAP funding.
- Give states more flexibility on the required local match by allowing federal safety money to substitute in as the local match and letting states average the match across all projects, meaning that each individual project wouldn’t have to meet the 20 percent match.
- Let states use up to 5 percent of TAP funding to support staff and technical assistance, which should help more communities submit successful applications and get projects built more quickly.
In addition, the Espaillat-Larsen bill goes a step further than the Senate bill to advance Safe Routes, biking and walking. It also incorporates the Senate transportation bill’s recommendation to expand Safe Routes to School beyond grades K-8 to also include high schools. It also proposes:
- Preventing states from transferring up to 50% out of TAP into other transportation projects unless they can demonstrate that they held a competition, provided technical assistance to potential applicants, and that there were not enough suitable applicants to use the funding. Since 2013, states have transferred more than $1 billion out of TAP, including a few states that regularly transfer the maximum 50 percent without even running a competition and making funds available to local communities.
- Expanding upon the required reporting that states have to complete on TAP to also require them to provide a detailed list of projects selected.
We will be working with members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the coming months to urge their support for HR 5231 and to incorporate it, along with our other asks on bicycle and pedestrian safety and Vision Zero and speed reduction, into the next transportation reauthorization.
We are also grateful to the following organizations for supporting HR 5231:
- Safe Routes Partnership
- League of American Bicyclists
- America Walks
- American Diabetes Association
- American Heart Association
- American Planning Association
- American Public Health Association
- American Society of Landscape Architects
- Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals
- Association of State Public Health Nutritionists
- National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
- National Complete Streets Coalition
- National Recreation and Parks Association
- Safe Kids Worldwide
- Safe States Alliance
- Sierra Club
- Transportation for America
- Trust for America’s Health