WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have announced bipartisan legislation to extend the highly popular Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that provides local governments authority over dedicated federal transportation funding for local active transportation priorities, including bikeways and sidewalks. The Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act (S. 614) uses federal funds for important local infrastructure projects that reduce traffic congestion, provide children with safe routes to school, and give communities more affordable transportation and stormwater management options.
“’Safer outdoors’ means the local hiking and biking trails are more vital to local communities than ever,” said Senator Cardin, Chair of the Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Wicker to strengthen the Transportation Alternatives Program and further empower local leaders with the resources to enhance their neighborhoods, promote economic development and improve quality of life and public health.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged Americans to spend more time outdoors walking and biking, and federal support for local bikeways and sidewalks should keep up,” Senator Wicker said. “I am glad to join Senator Cardin to introduce legislation that would give local governments more flexibility to bring these projects to their communities.”
Supported by the League of American Bicyclists and Safe Routes Partnership, the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act (S. 614):
- Increases funding of the Transportation Alternatives program to 10 percent of the Surface Transportation Block Grant program.
- Allows states, with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approval, to sub-allocate funds in the program to counties, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), regional transportation organizations, or local governments.
- Makes small MPOs serving urbanized areas with populations of 200,000 or less eligible for funding.
- Encourages prioritization of high-need areas as defined by the state, such as low-income, transit-dependent, or rural.
“The League of American Bicyclists applauds the leadership of Senators Cardin and Wicker in introducing the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act. This program reaches into the very hearts of communities to build better places for people to bike and walk. This bill will help the small amount of transportation funding that goes to biking and walking projects have a bigger impact for local governments and local priorities,” said Bill Nesper, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists. “Throughout the COVID pandemic, we’ve seen so many Americans bicycling and walking, and this bill will give local leaders the opportunity to improve the safety and accessibility of biking and walking for people in their communities.”
“As a national organization dedicated to advancing safe walking and rolling to and from schools and in everyday life, improving the health and well-being of people of all races, income levels, and abilities, and building healthy, thriving communities for everyone, the Safe Routes Partnership is grateful to Senator Ben Cardin and Senator Roger Wicker for their ongoing leadership in reintroducing the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act, which would expand, strengthen, and make the Transportation Alternatives Program more accessible to communities across the country,” said Cass Isidro, Executive Director of the Safe Routes Partnership. “Communities of all sizes rely on Transportation Alternatives Program as the key source of funding to create safe, connected routes to school, retail, parks, jobs, and health care.”
The Transportation Alternative Program has funded a variety of projects across Maryland that enhance safety and connect communities. From bringing Baltimore’s bus stations into ADA compliance, to enhancing recreation opportunities in Cambridge, to providing safe active transportation routes in Frederick, and making Complete Streets vision for Chamber Avenue in Capitol Heights a reality, TAP dollars have helped diverse communities across the state expand their transportation options.
In 2012, Cardin and former Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) authored an amendment to the MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) that consolidated three U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) surface transportation programs (Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and Recreational Trails) into the new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Under TAP, local communities can apply for funds for a variety of local transportation needs, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, Safe Routes to School initiatives, community improvement activities, recreational trails and more.
The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which converted the TAP program into a set-aside in the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, mandated state reporting on their transportation alternatives plans. The first report year was 2016. On average, there was insufficient funding for more than half of the priority projects nationwide at a potential cost of nearly $3.5 trillion.