Reauthorizing transportation funding for trails

arrow TAKE ACTION TO SUPPORT TRAILS FUNDING

arrow Download the Recreational Trails Program Talking Points as a pdf

 

This page covers Reauthorization of Federal Transportation Funding for trails, as American Trails continues its 20 years of support for positive policies and funding for trails and greenways. Scroll down for links to opinions, politics, and calls to action from many sources.

arrow Every trail organization can help expand support for continued funding for trails, greenways, and recreation routes through the federal Recreational Trails Program. Just think, what would happen in your state if RTP disappeared?

arrow See our current Blog: Trail politics: it’s all local...

 

NEWS on Federal Transportation Funding

 

arrow September 25, 2012: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released interim guidance documents and Q&A’s regarding implementation of MAP-21. The materials are online at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/.

 

arrow September 24, 2012: FHWA offers MAP-21 Webinars on September 26 and 27! Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) invites you to participate in informational webinars on the recently enacted MAP-21 surface transportation authorization legislation. Recordings are also available for webinars that have already taken place. The webinars are designed to make you aware of the major changes brought about by MAP-21, and to provide a forum for beginning the national dialog FHWA wishes to have with you on questions and concerns as FHWA works to prepare for the October 1 implementation of these program changes and efficiencies. Click on this link to register. Scroll further down on that page to view and download the presentations and recordings of past webinars.

 

arrow September 11, 2012: Only two States "opt out" of Recreational Trails Program Funding.

 

arrow August 8, 2012: two webinars on the impacts of MAP-21 on local trail, walking and bicycling projects were hosted by Rails to Trails Conservancy. See links to recordings and slides from the webinars...

arrow July 24, 2012: The Federal Highway Administration provided a summary of programs in the MAP-21 law. Of special interest to bicycle-pedestrian advocates are:

Transportation Alternatives (TA): MAP-21 establishes a new program to provide for a variety of alternative transportation projects that were previously eligible activities under separately funded programs. This program is funded at a level equal to two percent of the total of all MAP-21 authorized Federal-aid highway and highway research funds, with the amount for each State set aside from the State’s formula apportionments). Unless a State opts out, it must use a specified portion of its TA funds for recreational trails projects. Eligible activities include: Transportation alternatives (new definition incorporates many transportation enhancement activities and several new activities) Recreational trails program (program remains unchanged) Safe routes to schools program Planning, designing, or constructing roadways within the right-of way of former Interstate routes or other divided highways. Fifty percent of TA funds are distributed to areas based on population (suballocated), similar to the STP. States and MPOs for urbanized areas with more than 200,000 people will conduct a competitive application process for use of the suballocated funds; eligible applicants include tribal governments, local governments, transit agencies, and school districts. Options are included to allow States flexibility in use of these funds.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ): The CMAQ program, continued in MAP-21 at an average annual funding level of $3.3 billion, provides a flexible funding source to State and local governments for transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Funding is available to reduce congestion and improve air quality for areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, carbon monoxide, or particulate matter (nonattainment areas) as well as former nonattainment areas that are now in compliance (maintenance areas). States with no nonattainment or maintenance areas may use their CMAQ funds for any CMAQ- or STP-eligible project. Under MAP-21, a State with PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) areas must use a portion of its funds to address PM 2.5 emissions in such areas; eligible projects to mitigate PM 2.5 include diesel retrofits. Highlighted CMAQ eligibilities include transit operating assistance and facilities serving electric or natural gas-fueled vehicles (except where this conflicts with prohibition on rest area commercialization). The CMAQ program also has new performance-based features. The Secretary will establish measures for States to use to assess traffic congestion and on-road mobile source emissions. Each Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) with a transportation management area of more than one million in population representing a nonattainment or maintenance area is required to develop and update biennially a performance plan to achieve air quality and congestion reduction targets. A CMAQ outcomes assessment study for the program is also required.

arrow July 17, 2012: Some points raised by discussions by agency and organization staff in today's webinar hosted by Rails to Trails Conservancy on MAP-21, the new federal transportation authorizing bill.

- Legislators will be starting on the next transportation bill this fall; there are just two fiscal years of authority for MAP-21
- Looking ahead to next reauthorization, the missing concept for members of Congress has been "why is is essential that the federal government be involved in funding bike/ped projects?"
- However, the strategy of generating support and sign-ons from a wide array of organizations and communities across the country seemed to work. Without the evidence of support, the trails and bike/ped programs were candidates for elimination.
- So it's essential to spend the funds on good project that will show the value of the programs.
- Get dollars spent and don't let funds sit around.
- Get lots of applications to show the need.

- For the Recreational Trails Program, the competitive grants, eligibility, and grant administration is essentially the same.
- Funding levels are the same as FY2009; see state apportionments at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/funding/apportionments_obligations/recfunds_2009.cfm
- Goal of the Coalition for Recreational Trails is to make sure that no state "opts out" of RTP.
- If a state does opt out, the funds stay in the state and can go to other Transportation Alternatives categories.

- A key issue is the suballocation of the funds received by the states. Of the funds apportioned to a state’s Transportation Alternatives program, 50% is suballocated to areas based on population, while the other 50% may be obligated to any area of the state.
- Key to bike/ped funding success is working with local agencies and communities as well as raising the visibility of important projects.
- Environmental mitigation and regulatory compliance are fundable.
- Programs are still at 80/20 match, except Safe Routes to School maintain their 100 percent funding.

- Bike/ped safety programs are gone.
- TIGER grants are gone, but "Projects of National and Regional Significance" funding, subject to appropriation, is $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2013. The challenge is whether any really big bike/ped projects can be developed, and be competitive with freight, freeway, and intermodal projects. See more at:
http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/nat_reg_sig/index.htm
- Scenic Byways projects are still mostly fundable, even if the actual program has disappeared.
- There are many questions on grant administration and details of eligibility that will need to wait for official guidance from USDOT

See the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse report on "MAP-21 and Its Effects on Transportation Enhancements" - http://atfiles.org/files/pdf/MAP-21_and_Transportation_Enhancements.pdf

See more details of bike/ped and trails funding in our analysis of the bill...

arrow July 6, 2012: President Obama signed the new legislation, which will fund transportation programs through September 30, 2014. The Recreational Trails Program will receive $85 million in annual funding for the next two fiscal years. See more details of bike/ped and trails funding in our analysis of the bill...

Leaders of the Coalition for Recreational Trails thanked the coalition's members and thousands of grass-roots advocates, who contacted their Congressional delegations repeatedly during the years-long reauthorization process to express their support for the RTP and explain the importance of RTP-funded trail projects to their communities.

"We are very grateful to Senator Klobuchar, whose strong commitment to the RTP and ability to build a bipartisan alliance to support the program ensured that dedicated funding for RTP was included in MAP-21, the Senate's reauthorization bill, and then made part of the final bill approved by the conference committee," said CRT Co-Chair Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition. Marianne Fowler, CRT Co-Chair and Senior Vice President, Federal Relations for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, noted that the RTP's success was also rooted in the strong, bipartisan support that it enjoyed in the U.S. House of Representatives. "Congressman Petri has been with us since the RTP's beginning," said Ms. Fowler, "making sure the program survived - and then thrived - through reauthorization after reauthorization. And the leadership that he and Congressman Michaud brought to this latest, very difficult reauthorization effort was absolutely essential to the program's success in the House and eventual inclusion in the final bill." See the complete MAP-21 bill as signed...

 

TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES

‘‘(29) The term ‘transportation alternatives’ means any of the following activities when carried out as part of any program or project authorized or funded under this title, or as an independent program or project related to surface transportation:
‘‘(A) Construction, planning, and design of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other nonmotorized forms of transportation, including sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle signals, traffic calming techniques, lighting and other safety-related infrastructure, and transportation projects to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.).
‘‘(B) Construction, planning, and design of infrastructure-related projects and systems that will provide safe routes for non-drivers, including children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities to access daily needs.
‘‘(C) Conversion and use of abandoned railroad corridors for trails for pedestrians, bicyclists, or other non-motorized transportation users.
‘‘(D) Construction of turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas.
‘‘(E) Community improvement activities, including—
‘‘(i) inventory, control, or removal of outdoor advertising;
‘‘(ii) historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities;
‘‘(iii) vegetation management practices in transportation rights-of-way to improve roadway safety, prevent against invasive species, and provide erosion control; and
‘‘(iv) archaeological activities relating to impacts from implementation of a transportation project eligible under this title.
‘‘(F) Any environmental mitigation activity, including pollution prevention and pollution abatement activities and mitigation to—
‘‘(i) address stormwater management, control, and water pollution prevention or abatement related to highway construction or due to highway runoff, including activities described in sections 133(b)(11), 328(a), and 329; or
‘‘(ii) reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality or to restore and maintain connectivity among terrestrial or aquatic habitats.’’;

 

arrow June 28, 2012: The House voted 373-52 in favor of the transportation bill (HR 4348), which was supported by every voting Democrat, while 52 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the tally was 74-19, with 23 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for the measure. Some Republicans are still unhappy about the expenditure commitments included in the new bill.

arrow June 27, 2012: The bipartisan compromise on transportation funding will apparently leave out Enhancements and other bike/ped programs. An aide to the Republican leadership was quoted by TheHill suggesting that the deal in progress includes regulatory streamlining, and would eliminate the requirement for states to put money into projects like bike and pedestrian improvements. House Speaker John Boehner was quoted as saying that the new bill would "allow us to focus our highway dollars on fixing America’s highways, not planting more flowers around the country." Indications are that the deal would maintain current funding levels for transportation as a whole.

 

arrow June 21, 2012: ALERT! Trail funding comes down to the wire in Congressional debate – and your help is needed NOW! Compromises are being made in conference and may be devastating for trails! TAKE ACTION: See action alerts and current status…

The House and Senate began a conference committee in early May to try to reconcile their two versions of a new surface transportation bill. Until this week, it has appeared that there were irreconcilable differences and many leaders in the trails world projected there most likely would be another extension until following the election. However affairs have DRAMATICALLY changed over the last couple of days, and there may very well be a bill by the June 30th deadline, when the current authorization expires.

David Hawkings of CQ Roll Call projects this is the final stretch and that there will be a handshake agreement on the highway bill between John Mica and Barbara Boxer by tomorrow evening, Mr. Hawkings states in today’s Daily Briefing, “All the indications are that both those top negotiators and their House and Senate leaders are starting to lower their hard lines on almost all the contentious issues — meaning federal transportation policy may yet get remade this summer to last through the end of next year. Yesterday’s whopping 386-34 vote in the House directing conferees to wrap up their work by the weekend is a clear sign that conservative resistance to a new public works package is fading fast and that Boehner and his fellow leaders have decided they want the bill more than the issue.” He continues, “Democratic negotiators yesterday sounded near agreement to give the House a measure of satisfaction on environmental streamlining rules for road projects, consolidating Transportation Department programs and giving states more options to shed federal mandates for roadside enhancements.”

As the debate in Congress continues, NOW is a crucial time to let your Senators and Representative know that you support funding for trails and bike/pedestrian facilities. THE MESSAGE IS SIMPLE: Please preserve dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program, Transportation Enhancements, and Safe Routes to School.

And, IF YOU LIVE IN CALIFORNIA, it is especially important to ask Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Conference Committee, to stay strong on protecting dedicated funding for trails, walking and bicycling. Senator Boxer’s Washington office number is 202-224-3553. See action alerts and current status…

 

arrow June 19, 2012: With the current authorization for transportation (and trails) programs expiring June 30, it appears that another extension will be the only temporary solution. The two parties seem to find more to disagree about than to agree, and time is running out. The Senate, for instance, is including a major Land and Water Conservation Fund provision as part of its version of the surface transportation bill. The House leaders are promoting more flexibility to the states and fewer federal set-aside programs, like Transportation Enhancements. A simple extension to the end of 2012 would move decisions to the "lame duck" session when some Congressmen will be leaving but before the new freshmen arrive.

 

arrow June 14, 2012: Neither Republicans not Democrats appear to be ready to address the two big obstacles in creating a new federal transportation authorization bill. First, there are major differences between programs and mechanisms in the Senate version (MAP 21) and that proposed by the House (HR 7). Second, the funding shortfall of billions of dollars a year is a serious problem with political ramifications. Raise your hands– who wants to raise the federal gas tax? An opinion widely repeated by Washington observers is that we will see an extension of SAFETEA-LU beyond the November elections, either six months or a year.

 

arrow May 29, 2012: The House and Senate plan to continue their conference the week of June 4 on crafting a new surface transportation bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer is leading the effort in the Senate. In the House, however, Majority Leader Eric Cantor did not include transportation in his list of priorities for action this summer. The current SAFETEA-LU funding authorization expires on July 1 if the conference committee does not agree on a new bill. Many people think that is the likely scenario and current programs will be continued under a new extension. The House has already passed an extension through the end of September, but that measure has not yet been approved by the Senate. It has been nearly three years since the original expiration of the last big transportation act. The protracted negotiations may signal the end of these multi-year transportation authorizations, with transportation becoming another annual budget item.

arrow May 12, 2012: The House and Senate began a conference committee in early May to try to reconcile their two versions of a new surface transportation bill. It is not at all clear whether Democrats and Republicans can in fact agree on a final bill. As the national elections draw closer, it is increasingly likely that Congress will have to extend the existing SAFETEA-LU authorization yet again. “If they can’t find funding, then I think they will look at a 12-to-18 month extension,” said Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition.

While the current extension expires Sept. 30, the fuel tax money in the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out in the first quarter of 2013. Both House and Senate have Appropriations Committes which actually make the money available. While the FY 2012 appropriation for transportation was $57.3 billion, the Senate approved its Appropriations bill April 19 with a spending ceiling of $4 billion less – $53.4 billion. The House, which has proposed lower levels of funding than the Senate, has yet to act.

The conference committee is trying to address two very different visions for transportation, which would have big impacts on trails and bike/ped programs. According to Federal Parks & Recreation, "the Senate bill would roughly maintain funding for traditional recreation-related transportation programs – transportation enhancements, Recreational Trails Program, Safe Routes to School, and federal land roads. The House committee bill would either eliminate outdoor programs altogether or force them to compete with other programs for scarce allocations."

 

arrow April 19, 2012: Yet another extension of the federal transportation authorization was speedily passed by the House. With support from both Republicans and Democrats, the vote was 293-127 for to extend transportation funding programs until September 30. Some members of Congress express hopes that the House will now take up the bill previously passed by the Senate, and craft a new bill acceptable to both houses. Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on the House leadership to immediately appoint negotiators for a conference with the Senate on a new federal surface transportation bill. Others believe that no solutions to the key funding issues will emerage, thwarting hopes of a long-term highway bill anytime before the November elections.

arrow March 30, 2012: This week the House and Senate both passed a 90-day extension of the federal transportation authorization, and the President signed the law. It will continue current programs including Recreational Trails until June 30. The Senate had previously passed a two-year bill which included both Recreational Trails and bike/ped programs (see March 14 below). The House version, however, failed to garner enough support. It is expected that House leaders will continue pushing their concepts for tieing transportation to domestic energy development.

arrow March 20, 2012: After all the rhetoric and amendments and work to support trails in the House and Senate transportation bills, it looks like there will be an extension of the current programs. Today Rep. John Mica (R-FL) said the House won't address the bill passed by the Senate, but will simply extend the funding authorization, possibly until the November elections. The House is in the spotlight on federal transportation funding, following Senate passage of its version of the bill. However, with the current authorization expires on March 31, it's apparent that Congress must now simply extend SAFETEA-LU, as it has done eight times. For trails and bike/ped programs, life would go on as it has since 2009 when the first extension took place. Next stop would be the November elections, with more rhetoric to follow.

arrow March 14, 2012: Big win for the Recreational Trails Program! Today, the Senate approved a $109 billion transportation bill. The bipartisan bill passed by a vote of 74-22. Through a manager’s amendment, the Recreational Trails Program was saved! Here is the wording now included in the bill:

(7) CONTINUATION OF CERTAIN RECREATIONAL TRAILS PROJECTS.--Each State that does not opt out of this paragraph shall--
(A) obligate an amount of funds reserved under this section equal to the amount of the funds apportioned to the State for fiscal year 2009 under section 104(h)(2) for projects relating to recreational trails under section 206;
(B) return 1 percent of those funds to the Secretary for the administration of that program; and
(C) comply with the provisions of the administration of the recreational trails program under section 206, including the use of apportioned funds described under subsection (d)(3)(A) of that section.

(8) STATE FLEXIBILITY.--A State may opt out of the recreational trails program under paragraph (7) if the Governor of the State notifies the Secretary not later than 30 days prior to apportionments being made for any fiscal year.''.

Congratulations to all of you that worked so hard to help your Senators understand why this program is so critical to your State! Although, the bill now does allow a State to “opt out” of the program which was not in the Klobuchar Amendment (#1661), this amendment still restores dedicated funding for the program and leaves it essentially unchanged. This is a BIG win for trails!

PLEASE take a moment to thank your Senators if they supported the RTP. Also – please thank these Senators that co-sponsored the Klobuchar Amendment:
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Scott Brown (R-MA)
CLICK HERE to contact Senators. http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

arrow March 13, 2012: From Coalition for Recreational Trails - We are delighted to report that the Manager’s Amendment to MAP-21, the Senate transportation bill, containing a modified version of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s amendment continuing the Recreational Trails Program essentially unchanged, was accepted this afternoon on the Senate floor. This is a wonderful achievement! We are very grateful to Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) and her eight co-sponsors -- Michael Bennet (D-CO), Scott Brown (R -MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), James Risch (R-ID), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Mark Udall (D-CO). Please be sure to let them know how much the trails community appreciates their leadership and support. And, of course, we are very grateful to all the members of the CRT and the CRT Council of Advisors, who delivered powerful messages of support for the RTP from all across the country. Congratulations on an incredible effort and an amazing success. Many told us this was an impossible mission, with the Congress and Administration so focused on program consolidation and opposition to non-highway spending. You showed them! Marianne Fowler and Derrick Crandall Co-Chairs, Coalition for Recreational Trails

arrow March 9, 2012: There are still 22 more amandments to be considered for the Senate transportation bill, which have been scheduled for the week of March 12. Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), faced with opposition to the House version announced that the plan now is to see what the Senate can produce. “In the meantime, we’re going to continue to have conversations with our members about a longer-term approach,” Boehner said. If the Senate bill survives, the House would have to consider that two-year proposal before current surface transportation programs expire March 31. However, with the House in recess March 9–18, yet another extension may be in the works.

arrow March 6, 2012: Boehner Taps Shuster for Transportation Bill

The Senate voted today on Senator Reid’s (D-NV) substitute amendment (#1761) to the transportation bill (S. 1813), incorporating 37 agreed-upon amendments. They failed to invoke cloture (failed to move forward) on the Reid substitute amendment. The vote failed: Yea 52, Nay 44, Not Voting 4. (60 votes were needed to pass the amendment)


Message from the Co-Chairs of the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT):    

The Recreational Trails Program needs your help -- right now!  

As soon as this Tuesday, March 6th, there will be action in the U.S. Senate on the transportation bill, also known as MAP-21 or S. 1813.  We need to make sure that the Klobuchar amendment -- Amendment #1661 -- to protect the RTP and its dedicated funding is part of the final bill.  

Seven Senators from both parties have agreed to join Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to cosponsor the amendment:  Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), James Risch (R-ID), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Mark Udall (D-CO).  And we believe we have solid commitments of support from others.  

That support is great news, but it’s not enough to ensure that the amendment is accepted.  We need a clear majority of Senators pledged to supporting this amendment and willing to stand up for their trail-loving constituents, regardless of pressure from party leaders.  

Please call or e-mail your Senators about the Klobuchar amendment.  If one (or both -- congratulations, Colorado!) of your Senators is a sponsor, thank them for their support and ask for their active help with the amendment this week.  If they have not yet agreed to support the amendment, ask for their pledge now.  Tell them:  

●            Unless the bill is amended, MAP-21 will effectively eliminate the Recreational Trails Program and seriously damage, if not destroy, the balanced system of trails for all users that the RTP has allowed the states to develop and maintain over the last 20 years.  The RTP leverages hundreds of millions of dollars of additional support from other sources for trails, encourages productive cooperation among trail users, and facilitates healthy outdoor recreation and associated, badly needed economic activity in countless communities. Without the RTP, organized trail planning and development will simply vanish in many areas of the country.  

●            Right now, at an annual funding level of $85 million, the RTP receives less than 42% of the federal gas taxes paid every year by America’s nonhighway recreationists.  Unless amended, MAP-21 will convert a legitimate user fee into an unfair tax, with recreationists subsidizing commercial and private highway users.

●            The return of gas taxes to trail users through the RTP is in keeping with the user-pay, user-benefit philosophy of the Highway Trust Fund.  Ending dedicated funding for RTP takes these gas taxes away from the people who pay them.  Ending dedicated funding for RTP is bad public policy and just plain wrong.

Don’t let anyone tell you that another amendment has taken care of the RTP.  That is not true. We will let you know if anything like that happens.   If you don’t know how to reach your Senator, go to www.senate.gov.  In the upper right corner of the Web page, there will be a link to contact information.   Your previous help has already made a very big difference: 

●            Close to 400 national, regional, state and local organizations signed letters to every single Senator supporting the Klobuchar amendment.  You made that happen!

●            Seven members of the Senate – Democrats and Republicans – agreed to cosponsor the Klobuchar amendment.  You made that happen!

●            And in the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve King withdrew his amendment to eliminate the RTP from the House bill.  You made that happen!  

So now we ask for your help again.  You know how important the RTP is to your state.   

Make sure your Senators know too.  

Thank you very much.  

Marianne Wesley Fowler and Derrick A. Crandall
Co-Chairs, Coalition for Recreational Trails  

 

arrow March 3, 2012: Updated version of the Senate transportation bill released March 2 has good news for bike/ped programs but not for Recreational Trails:

Great news for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools: The Cardin-Cochran Amendment (#1549) has been incorporated into what is called a Manager’s Amendment and is expected to pass the Senate next week without controversy.

However, the Recreational Trails Program still in Jeopardy: We still need the Klobuchar Amendment (#1661) to be included in the bill because the Cardin-Cochran Amendment does NOT address Recreational Trails Program funding. There may still be opportunity for the Klobuchar Amendment to be included under a second Manager's amendment, which would authorize RTP as a a discrete program with dedicated funding. That is why the trails community has been working so hard to get both amendments passed. Download a copy of the Klobuchar amendment... (pdf 258 kb)

See more background from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and from Safe Routes to School Partnership

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote for March 6 to shut off debate on the transportation funding bill. Sixty votes are needed to move the bill to a vote on passage, which would require a "yes" vote by every Democratic Senator and at least seven Republicans.

 

arrow February 29, 2012: Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Michael Bennett (D–CO) joined Senators Burr (R- NC) , Shaheen (D-NH), and Risch (R-ID) have joined Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) as co-sponsors of the Senate Amendment which would restore dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program. Download a copy of the Klobuchar amendment...

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy letter in support of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s amendment to protect the Recreational Trails Program in the Senate bill was signed by 385 national, regional, statewide, and local organizations. Download the final letter with logos and signing groups... (pdf 4.6 mb)

The Senate is expected to re-open debate on amendments proposed for the transportation bill on March 1. Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would allow votes on some of those amendments in an effort to win enough votes to move toward final passage of the bill. Senator Reid, a Democrat, said "Republicans made it clear we would not be able to move forward on this bill without a vote." He added that he hoped the Senate could finish the transportation bill by the end of next week.

Congressional Quarterly, Inc. reported on issues with the House bill in "Short-Term Highway Bill in Doubt"

 

arrow February 27, 2012: Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has withdrawn his proposed amendment to end funding for the RTP in the House transportation bill. According to a staff member, the information provided by Coalition for Recreational Trails and other trail interests, both in Washington, DC, and in Iowa, increased both staff and Congressman King’s understanding of the logic behind the RTP program. And while he would still prefer to see the taxes go to projects aiding those paying – in this case motorized, non-highway recreational enthusiasts – the support and logic of the trails community resulted in his decision to withdraw his amendment. He is not considering offering any amendment which would alter the RTP program. Special thanks to Terry Durby, American Trails Board member, who led efforts to convince the Iowa delegation about the trails program.

 

arrow February 27, 2012: "Gas tax falling short in paying for transportation needs" - By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY

arrow February 24, 2012: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood declared that "Transportation enhancements mean greater safety for all users of America's roads" in his Fast Lane Blog. Promoting President Obama's proposed 2013 budget, he stated "Now, there's also plenty to say about the environmental and health benefits of biking and walking projects; how bicyclists and pedestrians take cars off the road and decrease traffic congestion; and how investments in livable communities with complete streets pay tremendous dividends in economic development." Read more...

arrow February 17, 2012: The Coalition for Recreational Trails reports that our efforts to line up co-sponsors for Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) MAP-21 amendment restoring dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program have met with success. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asked to be listed as co-sponsors of the amendment, which was filed on February 15th. Since then, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has signed on as well.

We have learned from Senator Klobuchar’s office that the amendment will not come up for consideration until after February 24th. As a result, the Senator’s office has asked that delivery of the multi-signature letter we sent you last week be delayed to a date closer to the actual consideration of the amendment. Thanks very much to everyone for your efforts to contact your Senators requesting support for the amendment.

arrow February 15, 2012: The President issued a veto threat on the the House transportation bill (HR 7). This morning Speaker Boehner told the Republican Conference that is being pulled from the schedule for this week and will be delayed until after the President’s Day recess. "If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that's perfectly fine with me," Mr. Boehner said. Some have expressed concern that insufficient political support would cause the House bill to fail. Earlier, President Obama had expressed support for the Senate transportation bill.

Both House and Senate bills have come under attack for their funding mechanisms. The shortfall in federal fuel tax collections is expected to increase. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the shortfall in transportation revenue will reach $14 billion in FY 2012. The House bill would spend $260 billion over five years. The Senate's plan would spend $109 billion on road and transit projects over two years. The President's new budget proposal includes $476 billion surface transportation spending over the next six year.

The FY 2013 President’s Budget requests $4 billion for a Livable Communities Program, which would apparently include bicycle/pedestrian programs: "formula and competitive grant programs to establish place-based planning, policies, and investments to help communities increase transportation choices and access to transportation services." Read more about the Administration's transportation budget proposal...

 

arrow February 14, 2012: Update from Coalition for Recreational Trails:

All our efforts on behalf of RTP are moving ahead.

Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) proposed amendment to end funding for the RTP in the House transportation bill, apparently based on his concern that funds are being used for non-motorized trail use, has stirred up a furor.

Supporting bike/ped programs in the Senate:

 

arrow February 13, 2012: Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has agreed to introduce an amendment to MAP-21 that will continue the RTP as a stand-alone program with its own funding. Download a copy of the Klobuchar amendment...

If this amendment is approved, then the RTP should be protected in both the Senate and House transportation bills. However, for Sen. Klobuchar’s effort to be successful, we must build support for her amendment. READ MORE...

 

arrow February 10, 2012: American Trails and partners in the Coalition for Recreational Trails are urging trail supporters to voice their support for dedicated funding for the both RTP and bike/ped programs. Tell your Senators to support Recreational Trails funding, a user-pay/user-benefit program, in the Senate transportation bill (MAP-21). Amendments have been proposed to provide to restore dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program (Senator Klobuchar) and to protect Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School (Senators Cardin and Cochran). Learn how to support these programs now...

arrow February 8, 2012: The Senate is expected to return to work on its version of federal transportation funding legislation. On November 9, 2011, the Environment and Public Works Committee passed its bill "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21). The bill eliminates dedicated funding for trails and bike/ped projects but maintains eligibilty for Recreational Trails, Enhancements, Scenic Byways, and Safe Routes to School. Read more...

American Trails and partners in the Coalition for Recreational Trails are urging trail supporters to voice their support for dedicated funding for the RTP. Tell your Senators to support Recreational Trails funding, a user-pay/user-benefit program, in the Senate transportation bill (MAP-21). In the next few days we are expecting to see amendments proposed by champions in the Senate to include funding for RTP and for Transportation Enhancements/Safe Routes to School programs. Learn how to support RTP funding now...

A variety of funding mechanisms have been proposed by both parties to offset the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. The federal gas tax, currently raises about $36 billion a year from an 18.4 cents per gallon taxation rate. To fund the Senate's $54 billion per year package, an additional 50% would have to be raised.

arrow February 3, 2012: We do have one victory to celebrate: the transportation bill just passed by the House Transportation Committee includes the Recreational Trails Program with $85 million in annual funding as a discrete program. Rep. John L. Mica, Chairman, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was thanked in a letter from the Coalition for Recreational Trails for including RTP in the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act. Hundreds of local and national trail organizations joined in efforts led by CRT to support funding and authorization for RTP. Read the thank-you letter to Chairman Mica...

HOWEVER, the Senate bill passed last November does NOT include any authorization of RTP. Stay tuned for the next effort to convince key Senators to include Recreational Trails in the final transportation legislation. The rhetoric against bicycling and walking facilities, including inaccurate assertions, is as strong as ever. House Speaker Boehner’s Blog claims that "reforms in the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R.7) that will ensure resources meant for highway construction and repair are actually used for highway construction and repair – not 'beautification' projects, bike paths, and other non-highway activities. Here’s how: By Directing 100% of the Highway Trust Fund to Core Infrastructure Projects. Reforms passed by the Ways & Means Committee today will stop taxpayer dollars from being siphoned off for non-economic projects - such as beautification and bike paths - which currently receive 25 percent of Highway Trust Fund expenditures, and direct 100 percent of that funding to core infrastructure projects."

arrow February 2, 2012: The Petri amendment FAILED on a committee vote. It would have restored dedicated funding for Transportation Enhancements, state bike coordinators, and Safe Routes to School programs, as well as restoring eligibility for rail corridor preservation. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted 29-27 against the amendment to H.R. 7, "The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act."

Advocates in Washington, DC and across the country had been working feverishly on support for the amendment that would have protected funding for TE and other bike/ped programs. Looking ahead, Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-FL) told supporters they would have another chance to fund the programs when the bill goes to conference with the Democratically-controlled Senate.

arrow January 31, 2012: Today the House Transportation Committee released the "American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act" (H.R. 7). See a summary of the bill from the Committee. According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, who obtained a copy of the bill, the Recreational Trails Program would be authorized at $85 million, but the Safe Routes to School program would be eliminated along with dedicated funding for Transportation Enhancements. Eligibility for preserving abandoned railway corridors, including trail conversion, is specifically eliminated. See the RTC analysis of the House transportation bill...

arrow January 30, 2012: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica said that his goal is to get the bill through the House by February 17. However, some in DC feel that it is "logistically impossible" to pass a final bill by March 31, when the current funding authorization expires. That would require yet another short term extension. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance and Banking committees will hold hearings this week to address its own transportation funding bill, which would be a two-year renewal costing $109 billion.

The political hot potato is the federal gas tax, which does not raise enough revenue to pay for either current or proposed transportation expenditures. Republican leaders say their bill will "expand American energy production and use those revenues to repair and improve America’s roads and bridges." However, critics say this proposal is very controversial and cite Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would still leave a big shortfall in funding. Neither the House nor the Senate proposals come close to the $556 billion in transportation authorization that President Obama requested over six years.

arrow December 29, 2011: TheHill.com reported that the Senate is eager to pass a two-year transportation funding bill soom after Congress returns in mid-January. The Senate the Environment and Public Works Committee had put forth a proposed bill in November that essentially eliminated dedicated funding for any trail, bicycle, or pedestrian programs. With the fuel tax shortfall causing disagreements between the two political parties, the Senate Finance Committee has been looking at proposals to offset the $12 billion shortfall in Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) original bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters last week that the surface transportation and aviation funding bills would be among his top priorities for action in the new year.

arrow December 9, 2011: Congressmen urge passage of six-year transportation funding bill. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) submitted a letter on behalf of 111 House members — composed of 62 Democrats and 49 Republicans asking the President to support a bill longer than the two-year authorization proposed by the Senate.

arrow December 1, 2011: The long-awaited House version of the transportation funding bill will apparently be delayed until after Congress returns January 17. Rep. John Mica, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced that details of the bill would not be released as planned. An E&E News reporter quoted Rep. Mica as "saying that he would not eliminate the Transportation Enhancements program and that the bill would maintain funding for bike and pedestrian programs." That casts still more uncertainty on the details, and whether Recreational Trails would be included in any actual funding.

A Washington trails advocate speculated that it really means there won't be a bill after all, but yet another proposal to extend the current transportation programs beyond the current cut-off of March 31, 2012. With the increasing focus on the 2012 national elections, and no leadership willing to address the fuel tax funding shortfall, an extension could be the politically expedient solution.

arrow November 9, 2011: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed its rewrite of the federal transportation bill, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21). The bill consolidates 70 former programs and allows states to choose their own priorities, but eliminates dedicated funding for trails and bike/ped projects. A new "transportation mobility program" includes eligibilty for Recreational Trails, Enhancements, Scenic Byways, and Safe Routes to School, among many other bridge, highway, and environmental programs. Section 149 of USC title 23 would cover "congestion mitigation and air quality improvement" and also includes Recreational Trails eligibility. According to the committee, it also "Reforms the Transportation Enhancements program with more flexibility granted to the states on the use of the funds within the program."

Dec. 1 is the current best guess for when the full Senate will vote on the bill. In the meantime, Coalition for Recreational Trails supporters as well as bike/ped activists are looking at options. One strategy is to convince individual Senators to offer amendments to support funding for these programs. See more on the bill and links to the full text...

 

arrow October 26, 2011: Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) has proposed an amendment to the House transportation bill which would Take funding away from programs like RTP in the case of emergencies that are defined as pretty much anything a state governor decides is an emergency. Read more and download the Dear Colleage letter and amendment...

arrow September 16, 2011: Sen. Tom Coburn agreed to Senate approval of the highways and FAA funding bill. He had been holding up the bill because he objects to Transportation Enhancements, which he called a "beautification mandate," and stated that ithe program is "an indefensible threat against public safety that forces states to prioritize bike paths over bridge repair.”

The bad news, however, is that there appears to be a bipartisan deal in the Senate to eliminate the requirement that states spend money on Enhancements, bike paths, etc. They MAY do so, but apparently there is no set-aside. Acording to thehill.com: "Senators Boxer and Inhofe explained that so-called transportation enhancement funding accounted for only 2 percent of the pending two-year transportation authorization bill. They emphasized reforms in the legislation that would give states more flexibility over how to use those funds. "Now that we have overcome this hurdle it's time to get to work on passing a two-year highway bill,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Senator Coburn is absolutely correct to say that states should not be required to fund highway beautification projects. I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with Senator Boxer on this issue.”

arrow September 13, 2011: The House passed legislation to extend the authority to appropriate funds from the Highway Trust Fund for transportation, trails, and bike/ped programs through March 31, 2012 (half of FY 2012). H.R. 2887 maintains current policy and funding at FY 2011 levels and also also includes a four-month of Federal Aviation Administration funding, which expires Friday.

Both Republican and Democratic members agreed that extending the gas tax and related spending programs was essential. This was the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU, which expired in 2009, and allocates about $41 billion per year on transportation projects.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the shortfall in transportation revenue will reach $14 billion in FY 2012. The House bill would limit spending to about $35 billion, or the actual federal gas tax annual revenue, while the Senate proposal would raise spending to $54 billion a year. Neither body has addressed the politically hot issue of paying for roads while gas tax revenues decline as vehicles become more efficient.

arrow September 4, 2011: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has singled out Transportation Enhancements as funding that could go to more pressing infrastructure needs. Rep. Cantor cited the House proposal to reauthorize Federal transportation programs, noting that States “will not be required to spend a specific amount of funding on specific types of projects, such as transportation museums or landscaping.” The actual bill has not been released but it is expected to be made public in the next week before action in Congress.

According to TheHill.com, "Infrastructure investments are expected to be at the center of the major jobs speech that Obama is set to deliver to a joint session of Congress on Thursday." The President on Sept. 3 expressed his support for another extension of the current transportation programs: "So I’m calling on Congress, as soon as they come back, to pass a clean extension of the transportation bill to keep workers on the job, keep critical projects moving forward, and to give folks a sense of security."

arrow September 1, 2011: Rep. John Mica (R-FL) has stated his support for a possible four-month extension of the Federal transportation funding bill (SAFETEA-LU). The bill would continue trails and bike/ped programs as well as allow the federal gas tax to be collected. Otherwise all surface transportation programs would come to a halt September 30, Rep. Mica stated in a news release, "As chairman of the House Transportation Committee, I will agree to one additional highway program extension, this being the eighth of the overdue transportation reauthorization.” Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) had previously indicated her willingness to support an eighth extension. The idea is to allow the congressional debt supercommittee time to address the persistent problem of funding transportation as fuel tax revenue declines.

arrow August 12, 2011: The Coalition for Recreational Trails, a network of national trail and outdoor recreation organizations, has created a new two-page "Recreational Trails Program Talking Points." With the seriousness of proposed cuts to budgets and programs, many supporters are concerned about the future of all bike/ped and trails funding. Read more and download the RTP Talking Points...

arrow July 19, 2011: Senate releases outline of Transportation funding bill: MAP-21 - The outline provides only a broad philosophy, which emphasizes consolidation and allows States to set their own performance targets. According to the outline, "MAP-21 consolidates 87 programs under SAFETEA-LU to less than 30 programs. The activities for which dedicated funding has been removed have been consolidated into the very broad core programs, leaving States with the flexibility to fund these activities as they see fit." Innovation NewsBrief editor Ken Orski asks, "Will the Senate Finance Committee oblige Sen. Boxer by coming up with a way to pay for her proposed $109 billion bill when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to receive no more than $74 billion over the next two years?"

arrow July 7, 2011: The outline of the House Transportation Committee's Federal "Transportation Reuthorization Proposal" was released today in a Congressional news conference. Most of the two hours of talk focused on streamlining regulations and reviews, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program. While we wait to see the actual bill, there are two key points of interest to trails and bike/ped advocates:

1. Funding is down - "This proposal ... authorizes approximately $230 billion over six years from the Highway Trust Fund - funding levels consistent with the amount of revenue being collected... In 2010, the Trust Fund brought in $35 billion in revenue, but $50 billion in spending was authorized.... Neither Congress nor the Administration will support an increase in the gas tax. The Trust Fund cannot support a two year bill at current spending levels, as some have proposed...."

2. Trails and Bike/Ped programs--- consolidated or eliminated? - "The proposal also identifies programs that do not serve a federal interest, such as the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program and the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, and eliminates them. Furthermore, states will no longer be required to spend highway funding on non-highway activities. States will be permitted to fund such activities if they choose, but they will be provided the flexibility to identify and address their most critical infrastructure needs." Download the "Transportation Reuthorization Proposal" (pdf 1.8 mb)

arrow July 6, 2011: House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica will release details of a House transportation bill tomorrow. The Coalition for Recreational Trails will be meeting later tomorrow to review strategies to include funding for the Recreational Trails Program in the bill. According to Derrick A. Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition, "We are told that it does not include reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program-- even though John Mica has repeatedly talked about his bill honoring the "user pay" philosophy reflected in the Highway Trust Fund. Yet nonhighway recreational users of federal gas tax appear to be targeted for loss of all benefits from their payments-- more than $100 million annually. The CRT board has been working closely with Mr. Petri's and Mr. Michaud's staffs to react appropriately and strongly if the bill drafted by Mr. Mica eliminates the RTP program, or changes it dramatically."

Meanwhile, A two-year Federal transportation funding bill in in the works on the Senate side, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. She is reported to have noted the $12 billion shortfall for those two years that Congress will have to fund. Her Senate committee would mark up the $109 billion legislation in the next few weeks. The bill does include spending increases that respond to expected inflation. Senator Boxer suggested that reducing US military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan would save enough money to pay for the shortfall in transportation.

arrow July 1, 2011: Larry E. Smith, Executive Director, Americans for Responsible Recreational Access writes: "The fate of the Recreational Trails Program still hangs in the balance as the bigger issue of how to find adequate resources to fund the nation's highway and transportation programs is resolved. We keep hearing that any day now House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica will unveil his draft legislation. When that happens, we will have a better handle on how the RTP is being treated. We are also hearing that Senator Boxer, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is close to releasing her draft bill, but like with Chairman Mica, we all wait. "

arrow June 27, 2011: Federal transportation funding: Six-year authorization bill? How about two years? Maybe just another extension to the 2012 elections? The Senate's new "framework" for transportation funding started out as a six-year bill but emerged as a two-year bill. Called "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century," MAP-21 originally called for $339.2 billion over six years and averaging $56.5 billion annually. In contrast, the Obama administration laid out a $556 billion transportation program over six years, and $93 billion per year recommended. However, neither Congress nor the Administration has addressed new funding-- the shortfall in funding from motor fuel taxes is expected to increase to $12 billion a year under the Senate proposal.

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, is drafting a House bill, but is reported to be adamant about a six-year authorization. Both the House and Senate bills are expected to be introduced after the July 4 recess. The seventh temporary extension of federal surface transportation programs expires September 30, 2011.

arrow May 6, 2011: Seventy-four Members of Congress from both parties agreed to support the Recreational Trails Program in a lettert to the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bi-partisan "Dear Colleague" letter asking Members of the House of Representatives to include funding for the Recreational Trails Program is being circulated by Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) in the Transportation Reauthorization Bill. Legislation expected to be produced by both House and Senate in May.

arrow April 8, 2011: A bi-partisan "Dear Colleague" letter asking Members of the House of Representatives to include funding for the Recreational Trails Program is being circulated by Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) in the Transportation Reauthorization Bill now being written by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Ask your Member of the House of Representatives to sign on to Rep. Petri’s and Michaud’s letter supporting continuation of RTP. And, please join 492 groups and agencies who are supporting RTP at this crucial time. Read more about RTP...

arrow March 30, 2011: No more SAFETEA extensions, said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference on federal transportation funding. "We stabilized the trust fund through Sept. 30th when we passed the seventh extension, but I'm here to tell you that there won't be an eighth," Mica said

arrow March 7, 2011: Both the House and Senate passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 last week to extend federal transportation programs to September 30, 2011. H.R. 662 was introduced in the House by the Republican and Democrat leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The legislation freezes funding at fiscal year 2010 levels for highway, transit and highways safety programs.

arrow March 4, 2011: Where will the Obama administration and Congress come up with the $556 billion to pay for the president's six-year transportation budget proposal? That was the big unanswered question raised during numerous panels at this week's American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Washington Briefing

arrow February 28, 2011: The American Recreation Coalition is playing a leadership role in coordinating support for the Recreational Trails Program, the National Scenic Byways Program and the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. Members of the T & I Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have heard from members and advisors to the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) supporting the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program. The CRT letters had almost 500 signatories and documented the results of the program nationally and in each Member’s state.

arrow February 17, 2011: "The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected on Wednesday to approve another short-term extension of current surface transportation through the end of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30." As both sides face up to possible gas-tax hikes, the administration is leaving decisions on how to pay for transportation to Congress.

arrow February 11, 2011: The House Transportation Committee has scheduled a series of field hearings on Federal Transportation reauthorization during February, 2011, starting with West Virginia on Feb. 14 and moving on to the West Coast by Feb. 21-23.

arrow Presidents national debt commission proposes transportation funding mechanism that would increase federal gas tax

arrow February 4, 2011: "I'd like to have a transportation bill on the president's desk by the August recess," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday during a conference call with reporters. He expressed his belief that members of the House and Senate appear committed to complete the legislation.

arrow February 3, 2011: With the current federal budget debate, the mounting deficit, and proposed cuts to spending on every aspect of national programs, every program we rely on could be cut or eliminated. This means Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails Program, and Safe Routes to School could all disappear.

arrow January 28, 2011: According to a Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation article, "The idea that bicycle and pedestrian funding-- rather than general overall cuts to federal transportation spending-- might be specifically targeted is realistic given that a few members of the House, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, have repeatedly called for bicycle & pedestrian funding to be cut or eliminated." Read about past history of bicycle and pedestrian cuts proposed in federal budget.

arrow January 18: "There are no Republican or Democratic roads. There are no Republican or Democratic bridges," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Speaking at a transportation technology conference, LaHood expressed confidence that Congress would pass a multiyear bill to reauthorize the federal surface transportation programs.

arrow January 13: Transportation Secretary LaHood cited benefits of bicycle infrastructure in his blog. A recent study argues that pedestrian and bicycle projects create more jobs than road upgrades or resurfacing, and the CDC states 67% of Americans support street design that increases physical activity. "Putting the two studies together creates a powerful argument for continuing the Department of Transportation's support for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects, said LaHood. "Even as these investments increase mobility, they also generate economic growth. And, people are demanding them for their communities."

arrow December 22, 2010: Proposed House rules could reduce funds available through SAFETEA-LU, including trails and bike/ped programs. "This proposal simply ensures we won’t be required to spend more on transportation projects than we take in. At the same time, it protects the Highway Trust Fund by ensuring every penny of the gas tax is spent on highway and transit projects, rather than diverted to pay for other items that we simply cannot afford," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for the Republican transition team. Current rules require annual spending increases as set in SAFETEA-LU, regardless of how much revenue was collected from fuel tax. Congress has had to appropriate a total of $35 billion to cover the shortfall. See "House Republicans Release Proposed 112th Congress Rules Package"...

arrow December 14, 2010: FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM including trails and bike/ped programs may be extended until the end of the current federal fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2011). H.R. 3082 (Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) was passed by the House. The other possibility, according to one Washington insider, is "a Republican-backed two-month Continuing Resolution, which means we'd be fighting for our programs right away in the new year."

arrow December 8, 2010: U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) was confirmed as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 112th Congress. “The Committee must pass stalled major surface transportation, aviation, and water resources bills, and I will do so as soon as possible in a manner that protects the taxpayers and creates jobs. It is critical that Congress jumpstarts transportation projects to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and get people working,” Mica said.

arrow Dec. 1, 2010: "The future of trails in federal transportation funding" was the topic of a kenote address at the American Trails National Symposium by Eric B. Beightel, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Office of Transportation Policy. He stated that "The President proposed that the new transportation authorization be fiscally responsible– fully paid for and accountable for the public dollars spent. VMT is falling and we are encouraging the expansion of transit and active transport networks– neither of which produces revenue under the current structure.... As we move forward with the uncertainty of what a new transportation bill will look like, it’s important that you continue to work with your local planners and state DOTs to make sure that they understand the importance of trail projects. Please also consider how a new transportation bill can reflect your interests and share your ideas with the Department and with Congress."

arrow November 18, 2010: Lots of discussion at the American Trails National Symposium in Chattanooga on the future of funding for trails. US Department of Transportation officials proclaim "livability" is the rising tide of the future. However, we don't know what that really means or how it will translate into future allocations for the many competing transportation interests. Another political wave threatens to sweep away the many small "special interest" programs we have grown to know and love. CMAQ, Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to Schools, Recreational Trails? Unless a new groundswell of support emerges in every Congressional District in America, you can say goodbye now.

arrow September 28, 2010: According to a Sept. 28th Mobilizing the Regional article, "Transportation advocates looking for a fully funded multi-year transportation bill got a boost last week when USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood told members of the Transportation Equity Network that he had received a green light from the White House to move on the country's next 6-year transportation bill. According to Transportation for America, USDOT officials now expect to see a full reauthorization proposal from USDOT and the White House next February in the President's budget request for fiscal year 2012." "The Obama Administration's ability to move on a transportation bill next year will largely rest with the political appetite of Congress this fall. The current extension of SAFETEA-LU, the existing transportation law, expires on December 31. Insiders cited in the most recent issue of the Washington Letter on Transportation say Congress will weigh a new, 1-2 year extension of the law during this fall's 'lame duck' session. A short extension is key if a new long-term authorization bill is to move in 2011. If Congress instead opts for a two-year extension there would be 'little to no likelihood' of passage of such a bill during the 2012 presidential election cycle..."

arrowRep. Oberstar releases "blueprint" for federal transportation programs, including trails. Download the "committee print" of the new Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 is available in pdf format (1.3 mb)

 

More news on FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING for trails, bikeways, and pedestrian facilities

x July 29, 2010: The House passed its fiscal 2011 Transportation appropriations bill. In March 2010, $20 billion was transferred from the general fund to cover the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. That funding is projected to support the current funding levels through August 2011. According to "Roads & Bridges," the appropriations bill does not solve the underlying problem of the revenue shortage in the Highway Trust Fund. The highway and transit programs are currently operating under a short-term authorization that expires on Dec. 30. If a long-term reauthorization measure is not enacted by that date, Congress must again approve a short-term extension to avoid a shutdown in highway and transit funding.

arrowMay 26, 2010: U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" show. LaHood talked about bike lanes and "rails to trails" and noted that "People are looking for biking paths and walking paths, and paths where they can be with their families on the weekend and enjoy the great outdoors." On the role of the USDOT, he said "We know people are always going to have cars, but we also have to promote the idea that people want many forms of transportation: streetcars, light rail, buses, metros, biking, hiking, walking."

Interviewer Neal Conan asked "Does this mean that money that might otherwise have gone towards repairing a federal highway system, to the interstates, will instead be diverted to bike paths?" LaHood replied, "What it means is that some of the resources that we have at DOT will be used for many different modes of transportation... There will be resources for us to promote bike paths, walking paths, streetscapes so that we can paint these bike paths along streets. There's plenty of money for all of this." Read or listen to the interview at National Public Radio

arrow May 20, 2010: Washington, DC sources discussing reauthorization expressed their sense that Federal Transportation funding is going to be very difficult for the current Congress. One possible scenario is to keep extending the current programs, including Recreational Trails and Enhancements until after the 2012 elections. The problem for a President on his first term is that any meaningful solution to the funding shortfall is tax increases. With the debate over the cost of health care, financial bailouts and stimulus, the crunch in State budgets, etc.— there is probably not enough political horsepower now to address the tough transportation funding problem.

arrow March 22: The Highway Trust Fund was extended through the end of 2010 as part of the new jobs bill. US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated that "we need lawmakers and experts to think creatively about how we're going to fund our transportation infrastructure in the 21st century." With the health care bill in the hands of the lawyers for now, transportation funding should be one of the next priorities for Congress.

arrowMarch 19: The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act maintains current highway spending through the end of the next fiscal year. Reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge construction, had been operating on a series of 30-day extensions.

arrow March 3: SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. Extension #4 is extended through March 28, 2010. Surface Transportation Authorization discussions continue.

arrow Feb. 27: The Senate jobs bill passed this week includes a one-year reauthorization of the highway trust fund (SAFETEA). A $20 billion infusion of cash would make up for the continuing shortfall in gasoline tax revenues, and keep transportation spending in line with 2009. During a Senate Budget Committee hearing Feb. 24, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood when the Obama administration will reveal its plans for a new surface transportation bill. LaHood said that the administration would reveal its version “soon” after Congress passes the SAFETEA-LU extension.

photo of work on bridge

Junction Railroad Bridge was converted to a
pedestrian and bicycle bridge in Little Rock, AR

arrow Feb. 22: SAFETEA-LU funding was extended through February 28. Surface Transportation Authorization discussions continue, with proposals for immediate action and proposals for a long-term extension. One or more extension(s) is (are) expected; the House Jobs Bill may include an extension through September 2010.

arrow USDOT outreach meeting on surface transportation reauthorization scheduled for January 25, 2010

arrow Dec. 19, 2009: The House and Senate have both passed extensions of SAFETEA-LU transportation funding. The Senate gave existing highway funding programs a two-month reprieve today when it approved a Defense Department appropriations bill 88-12. Included in the defense bill is a continuing resolution that allows the government to disburse money under the terms of the 2005 surface transportation act known as SAFETEA-LU. The Senate extended the law until Feb. 28, 2010. The extension gives the Senate time to consider a jobs bill that also cleared the House on December 16. The bill directs $75 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), with two-thirds of the total going to the Department of Transportation for infrastructure programs.

arrow December 17, 2009: The House jobs bill (H.R. 2847) includes $27.5 billion going to highways proposes a 3 percent set-aside for transportation enhancements (TE), totaling $800 million.

arrowNov. 1: SAFETEA-LU extended to Dec. 18 as part of a continuing resolution for programs that Congress has not approved in the 2010 budget. Senators were unsuccessful in an attempt to forge a compromise extending the law for six months.

arrow Oct. 1, 2009: Federal transportation funding continues with one month extension of SAFETEA-LU; while the House approved a three-month extension Senate Democrats' preference is for 18-months. So October 30 is the deadline for the House and Senate to reach agreement.

arrow July 31, 2009: "We should not force states to spend approximately 10 percent of all their surface transportation program funds on 'enhancement' projects like landscaping, bicycle safety, and transportation museums," argue Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain in "Out of Gas: Congress Raids the Highway Trust Fund for Pet Projects While Bridges and Roads Crumble."

 

Support the Recreational Trails Program! Join our efforts with the Coalition for Recreational Trails to get RTP funding included in the next transportation bill and sign on to the letter supporting RTP. Will your state's trails program survive? See Concerns about the future of the Recreational Trails Program.

 

 

TRAILS as TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE

The following are some essential items to help trails and greenways supporters understand the current debate over the transportation value of these facilities:

RESOURCES on TRANSPORTATION FUNDING and the role of trails and greenways

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