After years of extensions to the previous 2005 federal transportation bill, and seemingly endless debate and partisan gridlock, our elected leaders in Washington finally approved a transportation bill called MAP 21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). We have now had a month to read and dissect the $105 billion two-year bill to see how it will impact funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities at the state level.
If you are like me, over the last four months or so, you probably got dozens of action alert emails from the Bike Fed and various national bicycle organizations while congress was drafting that bill. The emails warned federal funding for bicycle facilities and programs was threatened and asked you to call or email your representatives in Washington and ask them to save bicycling. The good news is that many of you did just that and funding for bicycling remains in the bill. The bad news is that the amount of funding for bikes was cut and states can now choose to use the money set aside for bicycle projects and spend it on highways instead if they want.
Here are the basics of the bill as it relies to bicycle funding:
- MAP-21 replaces SAFETEA-LU
- MAP-21 is a 27 month reauthorization of Surface Transportation – September 2014, whereas SAFETEA-LU was a 6 year authorization.
- Total funding is on par with SAFETEA-LU, but funding for bicycling and walking is cut between 25% and 66% depending on how the state chooses to spend our federal allocation.
- Bicycle funding programs (Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trails Program) have been consolidated into one program: Transportation Alternatives
- State can transfer up to 50% of Transportation Alternatives Program funding to any other use without explanation. In a state of emergency, the state can transfer 100% of Transportation Alternatives Program funding to rebuild damanged highway infrastructure.
- The Governor may also opt out of Recreational Trails Funding EACH YEAR
- Dedicated SRTS funding no longer exists but remains eligible under TA
- Safety and education activities are no longer eligible under this program but may be eligible under the new “safe routes for non-drivers”
- State-wide SRTS coordinator is no longer required
- Mandatory sidepath law introduced for federal lands
- Required bike/ped coordinator but no dedicated funding for this position
Below is a flow chart that breaks down the TA program in greater detail. You can see that more money goes directly to local governments or MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations).
The chart below illustrates which programs were cut
So even though the funds were cut, bicycling is still funded at the federal level. From the Bike Fed’s perspective, that is a victory since there were serious attempts to completely remove funding for bicycling and walking from early drafts of the federal transportation bill. There were efforts by the Tea Party members of the House to limit the transportation bill to the amount of money brought in by the gas tax, but that effort was shot down by a huge majority since it would mean our transportation budget was effectively cut in half.
Remember that 50% of the Highway Trust Fund comes from general taxes, not the gas tax. As long as you pay in (whether you drive a car or not) and since bicycling and walking account for about 12% of all trips, it makes sense that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be federally funded.
The bottom line and biggest take-away from all this is that by allowing states to opt out of funding bicycle projects, it is even more important for you to let your state elected officials know that as long as you pay in, you want money to go to bike projects.
So what is the Bike Fed doing to ensure bicycling remains fully funded in Wisconsin? Of course we will let you know via email and this blog when key votes are on the horizon so you can tell your elected officials that when we make Wisconsin a better place to bike, we also make it more attractive to visitors and better place for all of us to live, work and do business. Until that we call on you, be assured that the Bike Fed staff and our lobbyists will meeting with our elected leaders in the State Capitol and senior officials at the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation to remind them that these relatively small investments in bicycling provide a nearly $2 billion dollar annual return in Wisconsin.