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Finding a Route Forward Under MAP-21

Last week, Congress did what many thought impossible – they passed a new transportation authorization bill. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday. Unfortunately, that achievement came at the cost of a balanced bill that keeps strong dedicated funding for biking and walking projects. The new bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), weakens and cuts dedicated bicycle and walking programs. This is certainly going to slow progress towards a bicycle friendly America.

Many people are asking “What do we do now?” The answer is in the language of the bill itself and, perhaps, in an advocacy model we’ve been developing over the past several years.

Despite the best efforts of some extreme members of Congress – and thanks to the efforts of our congressional champions – bicycling and walking projects are still eligible for federal transportation funds. This means bicycling and walking projects can be built with some of the largest pots of money, like the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), as well as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). This critical point is the key to making the most of the new bill.

But this is not new. Bike/ped projects have been eligible project types in those programs for 20 years. We have long known that creating a transportation network that includes active transportation infrastructure will require more than the 1.5 percent that was set-aside for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School (now combined into “Transportation Alternatives”). That’s why the League and the Alliance for Biking & Walking, with funding from SRAM, created Advocacy Advance.

The Advocacy Advance program holds Action 2020 workshops for advocates and transportation agency staff to share best practices for maximizing funding under the eligible funding programs. We’ve been to Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania and we have upcoming workshops in Missouri, Virginia, and New York. Learn more about the workshops and consider applying to bring an Action 2020 workshop to your community.

We’ve already seen the tactic of fighting for eligible funds paying off.

BikeDelaware recently scored a major win and set an excellent example for advocates in other states. They teamed up with Nemours Health and Prevention Services (a health group), several bike-friendly members of the General Assembly, and Delaware’s bike-friendly Governor, Jack Markel, to pass and fund Walkable Bikeable Delaware an initiative to dedicate state funding to vastly expand the state’s trail network. After securing $5 million in the state budget last year, the Assembly recently passed next year’s budget which included a whopping $13.25 million for walking and bicycling.

Advocates from Bike Delaware won an Advocacy Award from the Alliance for Biking & Walking in 2012 for their model, winning campaign

This is in and of itself a major win. But the leadership in Delaware has the vision and ambition to use the state dollars as a match for federal funds. They have already used Walkable Bikeable Delaware funds from last year’s budget to secure the first ever Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for a bike project in state history. Delaware is pointing the way forward for bicycling both in its state-level commitment to funding infrastructure and in its use of federal funds that have bicycling eligibility, like CMAQ.

See our reports on CMAQ, HSIP and 402 safety grants for more information.

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