Recently, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW)
Committee unanimously passed a two-year surface transportation reauthorization
bill known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st
Century or MAP-21 (S. 1813). The
measure seeks to make reforms in many existing transportation programs and, in
many instances, would maintain their current funding levels. The bill also
provides significant support for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and
Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program to leverage state, local, and private
sector funding for transportation projects. However, non-motorized
transportation projects, including bicycle and pedestrian projects, take a
major hit under the bill.
The Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School,
and Recreational Trails programs are all continued in the bill. However, the proposal lumps all three programs
together along with programs to build high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) roads and
wetlands mitigation projects and dramatically reduces funding levels for the programs.
Specifically, the programs would be consolidated and listed as “eligible uses”
under a subset of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) with
funding for all three programs limited to $833 million. This represents about a $313 million cut from
2010 funding levels for the programs. Moreover, the proposal would also allow states
to “opt out” of these pedestrian and bicycle programs and divert their portion
of funding to spend on other CMAQ road projects.
With recent attacks against TE as wasteful spending on “squirrel
sanctuaries, movie theatres and flower beds”, EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (CA)
promised reforms of the program. The EPW
proposal would consolidate 12 of the TE eligible project categories into 10
categories, by eliminating the “establishment of transportation museums”
category and combining two historic preservation categories into one. Further, the “landscaping and scenic
beautification” category has been renamed “vegetation management practices.”
During committee consideration of the bill, ASLA worked with
the Defense of TE Coalition and other groups to support amendments to
strengthen the non-motorized programs in the bill. Specifically, Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) offered
an amendment to restore dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs
and Senator Benjamin Cardin (MD) introduced an amendment to make it harder for
states to “opt out” of the TE program by ensuring that they solicit localities
for TE uses before refusing to use funds.
At the request of EPW leadership, the amendments were withdrawn, with
both senators planning to offer them on the floor during full Senate
consideration of the measure.
Three additional Senate committees must now weigh-in on the
bill, before full Senate action can occur.
The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has
jurisdiction to consider the transit portion of the bill and Senate Commerce,
Science, and Transportation Committee will now weigh-in on the rail and safety
provisions of the bill. Finally, the Senate Finance Committee must work to find
revenue to pay for the $12 billion shortfall between Highway Trust Fund
revenues and the bill’s spending levels.
Full senate action on the bill will likely not occur until all other Senate
committees have responded to their portions of the bill.
To learn more about transportation enhancements and other
ASLA priority legislation www.asla.org/advocacy