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News on Recreational Trails Program Funding

Some milestones in the journey from discussion to passage of what eventually became SAFETEA, the federal transportation bill which includes funds for trails and greenways.

February 25, 2005:

TEA-LU would increase Recreational Trails Program funding

Currently the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) provides $50 million annually to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and nonmotorized recreational trail uses. The RTP funds represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from nonhighway recreational fuel use.

The House bill for TEA reauthorization is HR 3 (TEA-LU). The RTP program amendments are in Section 1117 and the following funding levels in Section 1101:

  • 2004: $ 53,000,000
  • 2005: $ 70,000,000
  • 2006: $ 80,000,000
  • 2007: $ 90,000,000
  • 2208: $ 100,000,000
  • 2009: $ 110,000,000

The Coalition for Recreational Trails, a partnership among national groups representing the full spectrum of trails and outdoor recreation interests, supports higher levels of funding for the program. RTP funds hundreds of projects each year, many of which involve volunteers and youth corps, including backcountry as well as urban trails.

October 12, 2004:

TEA-LU would increase Recreational Trails Program funding

Trail-related highlights from the most recent proposals include:

S. 1072, SAFETEA: Transportation Enhancements would grow from $688 million to $899 in 2009. The Recreational Trails Program would receive $360 million over six years, up from $270 million under TEA-21.

H.R. 3550, TEA-LU: TE would grow from $605 million to $685 million in 2009. RTP would receive $503 million over six years.

TEA-21, the nation's comprehensive federal surface transportation law, including important trail programs, was due to expire in September 2003, but Congress passed a series of extensions while it works on the new law. The most recent extension, passed on September 30, lasts 8 months through May 2005. Congress may attempt to complete a new law in the lame duck session after the November election; or, it will start over with new reauthorization bills when the 109th Congress convenes in January. The primary trail programs are Transportation Enhancements (TE), which funds community-based trail, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

The House and Senate introduced their reauthorization bills in the fall of 2003. The Senate passed S. 1072, its successor to TEA-21, in February 2004. In April 2004, the House passed H.R. 3550, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU). The House and Senate have since modified their proposals and began the "conference" process to reconcile the differences, but a new bill failed to advance because of an impasse over total spending. The Senate is currently proposing $290 billion, the House proposes $284 billion, but the Administration set a $256 billion cap. TEA-21 was a $218 billion package.

On November 19, 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unveiled its $375 billion six-year transportation funding bill, The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU). Included in the legislation is substantially increased funding for the Recreational Trails Program:

  • $70 million in 2004
  • $90 million in 2005
  • $110 million in 2006
  • $130 million in 2007
  • $150 million in 2008
  • $150 million in 2009.

Additional information is available on the committee’s Web site: www.house.gov/transportation/highway/increasehighwayfund.html

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