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Analysis: Obama Transportation Bill

With the Highway Trust Fund going bankrupt this summer and the current transportation bill set to expire in September, the Obama administration sent the GROW AMERICA Act to Congress today.

The 4-year, $302 billion proposal is an encouraging starting point for a new transportation law. Addressing equity, connectivity and local control, the bill takes promising steps toward the League’s four federal priorities for bicycling.

“The bill sets a good tone for a healthy discussion about the role of transportation in our communities,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League. “Issues such as equity, quality of life, health and climate change should be at the core of transportation policy; we should be building a transportation system that works for everyone; local government should have a stronger voice in funding decisions – and this bill moves us in that direction.”

Here’s our preliminary analysis of the 350-page bill as it relates to bicycling. Learn more during our Federal Policy Update webinar tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern.


  • Establishes a federal equity goal including a pilot project for up to 10 Metropolitan Planning Organizations to do an inventory of connectivity with a focus on disadvantaged communities — and funding to set a target and to meet that target.
  • Strengthens language to upgrade public participation from “comment on plan” to “provide input” during development and implementation of transportation plans
  • What it doesn’t do: Unfortunately, the New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure, which would direct $11 million in TIFIA funds to bike-ped projects in low-income communities, is NOT included.


  • Writes TIGER into the authorization law — with bicycle and pedestrian projects explicitly eligible.
  • Creates FAST — Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation — a program modelled on Race to the Top. Incentivizing best practices and innovation, it provides $1 billion in funding per year to states and MPOs. Criteria include health, quality of life, and safety — and bike/ped is explicitly eligible.
  • Includes incentives for states to spend funding on bicycling and pedestrian safety in states with a high bike/ped fatality rates. We hope such incentives will be expanded and strengthened.
  • Increases funding and authority to high-performing MPOs.
  • Makes NGOs and MPOs (that don’t run their own funding competition) eligible, and allows states to bundle projects to meet the 80% federal / 20% local match.
  • Restores funding to federal lands programs.
  • What it doesn’t do: The bill does NOT restore funding levels of TAP to Fiscal Year 2011 level, does NOT codify that bike share is eligible for CMAQ funding and does NOT remove the “treatment of projects” language that requires that all TAP projects are treated as if they are federal-aid highway projects.

National Bike Plan

  • The bill includes several policy steps towards setting national transportation goals and performance measures that would be favorable to biking.
  • Establishes a federal Complete Streets policy and makes it federal policy that every project that gets federal funding consider all modes.
  • Strengthens local control and involvement by establishing the FAST program, authorizing TIGER, establishing incentives for designated high-performing metropolitan planning organizations, and by setting up a program to improve data collection and analysis in support of performance measures.
  • Establishes a national goal on connectivity and opportunity and explicitly includes bicycling and walking connections.
  • Right to the road: Repeals the mandatory sidepath provision in MAP-21 which forced bicyclists on federal lands to ride on a trail instead of the road, if a path were located within 100 feet.
  • What it doesn’t do: It doesn’t explicitly create a National Bike Plan, though it does include promising goals.


  • Takes the first step to pushing funding to areas of significant biking and walking fatalities. If a state transfers funding to 402 grants and more than 5% of the state fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians then 30% of the transfer has to go to bike/ped.
  • What it doesn’t do: Establish a non-motorized safety performance measure

Learn more during our Federal Policy Update webinar tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern!

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, speaking at the 2014 National Bike Summit (By Brian Palmer)

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