October 2012 Featured Article
How does the new transportation legislation MAP-21 impact your community?
The new transportation bill was signed into law by president Obama on July 6, 2012. It extends the current SAFETEA-LU law through September 30, 2012, and authorized programs under the new titled MAP-21 legislation through September 2014. The new transportation bill authorized $10.578 Billion in transportation spending which is in line with current funding of $10.458 Billion, plus a two percent increase for inflation.
One of the most significant changes under the MAP-21 legislation is that it consolidates approximately 90 programs into less than 30 programs, and focuses resources on national goals and initiatives rather than individual programs. This new format decreases the number of specific programs but does not necessarily eliminate the funding available for those programs no longer named under individual programming. Funds are still available for many of the previously funded programs, however many programs no longer have a dedicated set aside. The new law also eliminates ear marks and consolidates many programs in an effort to increase both efficiency and the allocation of federal dollars.
Under this extensive consolidation many of the program names that communities were familiar with have changed and are now categorized under larger programs.. The largest consolidation for many grant opportunities that fell under local jurisdiction was the Transportation Enhancement funding. This program, along with the Surface Transportation Program, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails Program were consolidated under the newly named Transportation Alternatives Program. This change also allows governors to opt out of 50% of the Transportation Alternative Funds, and additional recreational trails program funding. In this case, the total obligation would be decreased by the federal government and the state loses the ability to utilize these federal funds. As such it is important to work with the Governor’s office to maintain and allocate these federal funds for bicycle, pedestrian, streetscape, and transit oriented development developments throughout the state.
In addition, the state DOT can allocate these Transportation Alternative funds to MPO’s and rural communities through either a competitive grant program, or through regional planning efforts. The other half of the Transportation Alternative funds that are allocated to the state DOT can be granted through a competitive grant program, or allocated to any other highway program. Eligible entities include local governments, school districts, tribal governments, and public land agencies for the funds distributed through the state DOT. It should be noted, that in an emergency a state can transfer all funds from Transportation Alternatives to rebuilding any damaged transportation infrastructure.
For 2013, approximately $808 Million in funding has been allocated for the newly titled Transportation Alternatives under MAP-21.
Other changes include the consolidation of the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway Systems and Highway Bridge funding which is now under the National Highway Performance Program. The Surface Transportation Program, now is the umbrella program for Highway Bridges as well as some of the programs historically under the Surface Transportation Program. Highway Safety Improvement, Rail Highway Crossings, and Metropolitan Planning remain the same. The Forest Highways was renamed the Federal Lands Access Program.
In addition to the consolidation stated above there are several new core programs approved under the new legislation such as; National Highway Performance Program, Transportation Mobility Program, and National Freight Network Program. Some of the existing core programs that were maintained included: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and Highway Safety Improvement Program. “The Transportation Infrastructure, Finance and Innovation Program (TIFIA) provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to surface transportation projects at favorable terms and will leverage private and other non-federal investment in transportation improvements.” (Works, 2012) Other programs include: Projects of national and Regional Significance Program, Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Highway Programs, Territorial and Puerto Rico Highways Programs, Administrative Expenses, Emergency Relief, Highway Bridge and Tunnel Inventory and Inspection Standards.
Overall, funding remained relatively flat and “MAP- 21 improves statewide and metropolitan planning process to incorporate a more comprehensive performance based approach to decision making.” (Works, 2012) The new legislation eliminated dedicated funds to specific programs, however, similar funding levels exist for the overall transportation budget which is more flexible and providers greater control to the state DOT’s and MPO’s to dedicate these funds in programs that are necessary to improve and maintain infrastructure. It is obviously too early to determine how effective this new approach will be for local government. Our advice is to begin strategizing about the most important transportation related initiatives in your community would like to pursue and start compiling information and developing an effective argument for their importance and impacts on local, regional, state and national economies now, so you are well prepared come funding time!
Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities.