Recreational Trails Program


arrow Read about nationwide benefits of RTP funding in the 2015 Recreational Trails Program Annual Report

arrow Learn about ther annual awards program for projects funded by the Recreational Trails Program

arrow See Congressional allies champion Recreational Trails Program



Recreational Trails Program facts and status

arrow Download the Recreational Trails Program information sheet


Outline of the Recreational Trails Program

●  The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) was created by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), reauthorized in 1998 as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and reauthorized again in 2005 through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The RTP was also included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the transportation-reauthorization bill signed by the President on July 6, 2012 and now extended until May 31, 2015.

●  RTP applies the “user-pay/user-benefit” philosophy of the Highway Trust Fund, returning federal tax on fuel used for nonhighway recreation to the states for trail projects. Program implementation is consistent in practice with other expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund. Although the gas tax supporting the Fund is paid primarily by gas-using vehicles, resources are shared with other users of recreational trails to develop a balanced system.

●  Project categories eligible for funding are many and varied, giving states the flexibility they need to administer state trail programs. Eligible projects include: maintenance and restoration of existing recreational trails; development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages for recreational trails; purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment; construction of new recreational trails (with specific requirements when federal land is involved); acquisition of easements and fee simple title for recreational trail corridors; and assessment of trail conditions. State administrative and educational program costs are capped at 7% and 5% respectively. States are encouraged to work with qualified youth conservation or service corps.  

●  Half of all funding is apportioned to the states equally. The remaining 50% is apportioned among eligible states based upon nonhighway recreational fuel use in each of those states during the preceding year.

●  Thirty percent of funds are to be spent for uses relating to motorized recreation; 30% are to be spent for uses relating to nonmotorized recreation. In addition, 40% shall be used for projects that facilitate diverse recreational trail use within a recreational trail corridor, trailside or trailhead.

●  Over 20 years, RTP funding has grown to represent a more equitable portion of the total fuel taxes paid by nonhighway recreationists, although that portion is still less than 42% of the total taxes paid annually by nonhighway recreationists. More than 20,000 funded projects have been documented nationwide. The last year of SAFETEA-LU funded RTP at $85 million, the same annual amount approved under MAP-21. Since 1991, the RTP has received more than $1 billion in federal funding. 

●  Since 2006 the program has received:

  • $70,000,000 for FY 2006
  • $75,000,000 for FY 2007
  • $80,000,000 for FY 2008
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2009
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2010
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2011
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2012
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2013

●  RTP is the foundation for state trail programs across the country. It 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. 



The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) is a federation of national and regional trail-related organizations. Its members work together to build awareness and understanding of the Recreational Trails Program, which returns federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists to the states for trail development and maintenance. CRT was formed in 1992 following the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) to ensure that the National Recreational Trails Fund (now known as the Recreational Trails Program or RTP) established by that legislation received adequate funding. Read more about the Coalition for Recreational Trails...


 arrowSee the Federal Highway Administration website for the Recreational Trails Program

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