Federal Funding Resources
Federal transportation funding is administered by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) through its modal agencies, primarily the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Federal transportation policy, including the types of projects that can be funded and how funding is distributed to different funding programs, is set by Congress when it authorizes federal transportation spending. In November 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which both reauthorized five years of transportation funding AND added a one-time burst of additional funding for transportation and other infrastructure.
While Congress refers to it as the IIJA, the Biden Administration and the US Department of Transportation refer to it as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or BIL.
This page provides resources for bike advocates on the IIJA/Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and how to access those funds to make biking better in your community.
Summary of League wins in the IIJA/BIL
The infrastructure law included over a trillion dollars for infrastructure with almost three quarters of that going to transportation. As a comparison, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which covered transportation from 2015 to 2020, came in at $255 billion. In total, the IIJA/BIL five-year transportation authorization comes in at $550 billion, plus an additional $274 billion of one-time spending.
Some of the League priorities that made it into the IIJA/BIL are:
- Increased funding for Transportation Alternatives by more than 60%
- Requires all states to do a Vulnerable Road User Assessment to map out where fatalities and serious injuries occur, identify and label high- risk areas, and determine solutions to address vulnerable road user safety
- Requires each state to write a Complete Streets policy and standards
- Requires car safety standards to include how well new technologies like Automatic Emergency Braking work at detecting and protecting vulnerable road users
- Increased funding for discretionary grant programs like RAISE
The League looks forward to working with the US Department of Transportation, state Departments of Transportation and state and local bike advocates as we prepare for implementation of the new funding and policies. We also will continue to advocate for infrastructure programs that reinvest in communities hurt by transportation decisions of the past, and tax incentives, like the Bicycle Commuter Benefit and the e-bike tax rebate.
For more information on the IIJA/BIL resources, use the accordian features below.
Overview of IIJA/BIL
Here’s a funding table by state and metropolitan area showing 2020 vs. 2022 funding for:
- Transportation Alternatives
- Highway Safety Improvement Program for states that meet the VRU special rule
- Carbon Reduction Program
Once Congress passed the transportation bill, the US DOT started interpreting the BIL and writing guidance for state DOTs to follow.
Even though the bill allocates a certain amount of funding for each state for each program, the funding doesn’t directly go to the state. Instead, the state builds a project and then asks for reimbursement from the US DOT Agencies. Most bicycling and walking funding comes through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
- FHWA has created this website that includes links to the law text, and guidance.
- The League’s analysis on the changes to the law and the guidance are available below by program.
Federal Transportation Programs
There are two types of federal transportation funding: forumla funding and discretionary competitve grants. In formula funding, every state gets a percentage based on population, miles of roads and other factors. In discretionary competitive grants, states and local governments compete for funding.
Federal transportation funding flows through a number of transportation programs run by the Federal Highway Administration. While bicycling and walking projects are eligible for all the programs, the majority of our funding comes from just a few. The major changes in the BIL affecting bicycling and walking were Transportation Alternatives, Highway Safety Improvement Program, Carbon Reduction Program and planning.
Discretionary grants are funding programs states and local governments can apply for. The programs are sketched out by Congress and put under the control of the Transportation Secretary. The Secretary and their team then run the grant program and pick the winners.
The BIL gave an unprecedented $100 billion in discretionary grants to the US DOT. Not all those programs affect bicycling and walking, but many do. Some, like Safe Streets and Roads for All, are very focused on bicycling and walking. Others, like the Bridge, rural or SMART grant programs, may offer opportunities to address bicycling and walking access and concerns in new ways. One program, the Railway crossing program, may actually create barriers for bicycling and walking so we’ll be watching the rules of that program as well.
Learn more about the changes to these programs below.
Details on Biking/Walking Programs
The Transportation Alternatives program is responsible for 50% of the federal funding spent on bicycling and walking. The program is now 10% of the larger Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, which will grow each year of the bill.
- Goal of the program: get federal dollars to local governments for local projects.
- Eligible Projects: Projects eligible for Transportation Alternatives including bicycling and walking projects, environmental mitigation, historical preservation and other smaller projects (excluding road building projects)
- How funding is decided: Local governments apply to their state or Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for funding for local priorities.
Changes under BIL
- Funding was increased from $850 million per year to $1.38 billion per year in 2022. The funding will grow each year. It is more difficult for states to transfer money out of TA.
- Technical Assistance: States have funding to offer technical assistance to local governments through all aspects of the project. States are required to offer and then fulfill technical assistance requests before a state can transfer funds out of the program.
- Flexibility with the local match: States can use the Highway Safety Improvement Plan (HSIP) (below) as the local match if the project improves safety. Also, states can bundle projects to meet the 20% local match across the program instead of across each project.
The Highway Safety Improvement Program provides funding for states to make their roads safer. Traditionally only a small percentage of the funding has gone to bicycling and walking safety because state Departments of Transportation focused on areas with high fatalities for car drivers and occupants.
- Goal of the program: improve safety and reduce fatalities and serious injuries
- Eligible Projects- Infrastructure Projects to improve safety
- How projects get funded- State Departments of Transportation control the funding, and direct it to areas of high fatalities for automobile occupants based on their Strategic Highway Safety plans and their State Transportation Improvement Plans (STIPs)
Changes in BIL
- Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessment-
- Each state is required to map the fatalities of Vulnerable Road Users (people walking, biking and using mobility devices), determine high-risk areas, and develop projects and programs to improve safety in those high-risk areas.
- VRU Special Rule
- Requires states where 15% or more of roadway fatalities are vulnerable road users to spend 15% or more of HSIP funds on vulnerable road user safety
- VRU research: Here are two examples of questions to ask on how to increase safety and increase bicycling and walking
- How does reducing speeds effect bicycling and walking usage?
- How can suburban arterials be made safer for vulnerable road users.
- Safe System Approach - The BIL requires states take a safe system approach when determining funding priorities in the State’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. A safe system approach changes the way we look at responsibility for roadway fatalities from blaming individual users, to understanding the role of the design and speed of the road.
This is a brand new program under the BIL, and could have a big impact on funding for bicycling and walking.
- Goal of the program: To reduce carbon emissions from our transportation program.
- Eligible Projects: Projects that can shift trips from single occupancy vehicles to bicycling, walking and transit. All Transportation Alternatives projects are eligible.
- How projects get funded: State Departments of Transportation control the funding, and direct it based on their Carbon Reduction plans (required under this program) and their State Transportation Improvement Plans (STIPs).
This is a new grant program created in the BIL. It funds local, tribal and regional governments to create Safety Action Plans and to implement projects in that plan. The BIL’s description of a Safety Action Plan sounds very similar to a Vision Zero plan, but also gives the US DOT significant discretion in what they require and how they determine grant requirements.
There is $1 billion per year available for this program.
Goal of the program: To help local governments reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
- Develop a Comprehensive Safety Action Plan
- Conduct planning, design, and development activities
- Carry out projects and strategies identified in an Action Plan
How projects get funded
- At least 40% of annual funding will be awarded for Safety Action Plan Grants and supplemental action plan activities.
- Each applicant will only be eligible for one type of grant.
- If an applicant already has a Safety Action Plan or a plan that meets those criteria, it can apply for an implementation grant.