filed under: federal legislation

Earmarks are an Opportunity for Trail Funding

Act now to get your shovel-ready trail project into your Representative's earmark process.

The reemergence of earmarks in the infrastructure and appropriations process in Congress is creating huge opportunity for trail projects that are ready to go.

by American Trails Staff

photo credit: Stuart Macdonald

The Happy Creek boardwalk provides an accessible opportunity to visit an old-growth northwest forest.

Do you manage a trail project that is ready to go within the next 5 years, and is in need of funding. The next two weeks provide an opportunity for you to reach out to your representative to ask for your project to be included in their priority list.

The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee has issued guidance about earmarks available for local transportation priorities. The committee is inviting all members of Congress to submit specific “Member Designated Projects” for inclusion in the surface transportation reauthorization currently being drafted. As such, the timeline is very short, and projects will only be accepted between April 1 and April 16. (Note that this process is separate and distinct from the House Appropriations Committee earmarks.)

Watch the March 31 Webinar put on by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on how you can use the earmark process to promote investments in trails and active transportation networks in your community.

Act Quickly!

In order for your project to be considered by the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, you need to act fast by reaching out to your representative ASAP to find out what their process is for adding projects to their priority list and asking them to submit it to the T&I Committee by the April 16 deadline. Your project will need to meet the following criteria:

  • The project should be included in your state DOT's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) (or get DOT commitment that it will be included soon).
  • You can demonstrate that this project will absolutely move forward if the requested funding is provided.
  • All environmental permits (NEPA, etc.) are in place.
  • Projects that are Title 23 eligible, are eligible for earmark consideration.

You can also consider adding your project to the Trails Move People Shovel-ready Project Database to get it added to future advocacy around this effort.

Add Your Project to the Trails Move People Shovel-ready Project Database

How to make the case for your project:

Trail projects will compete against other transportation projects (i.e. roads and bridges), however, they MAY be very competitive because:

  1. They often easily fall in the sweet spot for funding of $1-1.5M
  2. Trail projects can develop a lot more demonstrations of public appreciation. Make the case that your Congressperson will see XXX number of public messages of appreciation, opportunities for ribbon-cutting ceremonies, or news articles. (Highway interchanges usually don't engender that type of response!)
  3. Contact your member of Congress ASAP.
  4. Download the House T&I Committee Booklet on the earmark process and answer the 26 questions in your request.
  5. Use the Rails-to-Trails Request Template to ensure you are thinking through your request.
  6. Be prepared to demonstrate that your project is ready to go within a year should funding be provided.
  7. Be prepared to demonstrate that matching funds are currently (or will be) available when funding is provided.
  8. Demonstrate how your project serves underserved populations or communities or is sensitive to equity issues.
  9. Show how your project will benefit your Congressperson as well as you. Show mutual benefit.

Published March 2021

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