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Senate Passes Surface Transportation Bill

ASLA voices help make a difference.

More than two years after the nation’s surface transportation law, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) expired, the U.S. Senate passed a new comprehensive transportation bill on March 14, 2012. The bipartisan measure, S. 1813, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), overwhelming passed the Senate by a vote of 74 to 22

The original measure, as passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in November 2011, included many provisions that severely weakened key programs important to landscape architects, including lumping the Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes To School (SRTS), and Recreational Trails programs into one “Additional Activities” category under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, with limited funding. But ASLA advocates, along with other allied organizations, swung into action to support key amendments on the Senate floor that enhanced these programs.

After receiving tens of thousands of messages from constituents, the Senate agreed to accept an amendment by Senators Ben Cardin (MD) and Thad Cochran (MS) to allow local communities to compete for TE and SRTS funds instead of waiting for state transportation departments to approve such projects.

Then, ASLA members went on to support an amendment by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) to continue the Recreational Trails program unchanged. Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (NC), James Risch (ID), Bernard Sanders (VT), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Mark Udall (CO) all joined Senator Klobuchar in supporting this amendment that the full Senate agreed to include in the final Senate-passed bill.

The final MAP-21 bill also includes a provision for the safe accommodation of all users in federally funded street projects. The measure also for the first time clearly defines “road users” as including people who walk and bicycle and use public transportation, as well as people with disabilities and older adults.

The final bill also includes an amendment by Senators Bill Nelson (FL), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Richard Shelby (AL) to include $700 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and to authorize the program through 2022. 

After many months of sustained advocacy efforts, ASLA is pleased that the final version of MAP-21 salvaged the many active transportation programs that are important to landscape architects. Now advocacy efforts will focus on the House of Representatives’ surface transportation proposal, H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, which eliminates the 10 percent set aside to fund the TE program and would completely eliminate the SRTS and National Scenic Byways programs.

For more information on ASLA advocacy efforts, visit

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