While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that senators approved this week includes increased funding for walking and biking, it unfortunately also includes a misstep in the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside with negative implications for recreational trails throughout the country.

While the state budget was finalized just last month, our Wisconsin congressmen and women have been working throughout the summer in Washington D.C. to hammer out details on what our federal budget will look like for the coming years. With the scheduled August recess upon us, senators acted this week to pass the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that has big implications for biking and walking initiatives. 

While the deal that senators approved this week includes increased funding for walking and biking, it unfortunately also includes a misstep in the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside.

For bike and pedestrian priorities, the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside is the go-to pot of money at the federal level. Much like our Wisconsin Transportation Alternatives Program – the one many of you contacted your state legislators about earlier this summer – this funding source can be utilized for many of the bike and pedestrian projects important to you, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, environmental mitigation, and creating or improving recreational trails projects.

Historically, the Set-Aside has allocated its funding into two separate groupings: Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program (RTP), with Transportation Alternatives receiving 91% of Set-Aside funding, and RTP receiving 9%.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal only funded RTP at 6% of the Set-Aside – a break from the status quo. Earlier this week, a bipartisan amendment was introduced by Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Risch (R-ID) that would restore RTP to 9%. The amendment wasn’t given a vote, thus leaving the change out of the final bill.

As advocates for better biking here in Wisconsin, we are in favor of funding for both Transportation Alternatives and recreational trails – it’s not an either/or situation. While we’d love to see even more funding available for the Set-Aside as a whole, maintaining the funding balance between Transportation Alternatives and RTP would have been the right decision.

While there will be opportunity for debate on the Senate’s bill in the House, it seems unlikely that meaningful changes will be made there. However, we are hopeful that there will be opportunities within a reconciliation bill to address some of the shortcomings of the Senate’s Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act.