Flexible Funding for Transit-Supportive Infrastructure
Finding funding for small-scale biking and walking projects can be a long and difficult process, however flexible funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) can be a simpler way to get smaller projects on the ground quicker.
For biking and walking projects near or around transit stops, funding can be achieved by transferring funding from the FHWA to transit-supportive infrastructure projects. Sections 23 U.S.C. and 104 apportionment provisions included in the federal highway code outline the universal transferability provision, giving states the ability to transfer funding allocated to the FHWA to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In these cases, project oversight would be transferred from your state’s Department of Transportation to the principal grantee of federal transit funds, putting project oversight much closer to street level, where there is greater familiarity with local transportation needs.
Eligible projects that fall under transit-supportive can include preservation and operation of historic public transportation facilities, creation of bus shelters, increasing functional streetscaping and pedestrian walkways, improving bicycle access, increasing signage, and enhancing access to public transportation for persons with disabilities. In addition, all pedestrian projects need to be located within a half-mile of a transit stop and bike projects need to be located within three miles of transit stops to be considered physically or functionally related to transit.
Process to Request Transfer of Funds
The process of requesting flexible funding starts with the state. A request needs to be made to your state for funding from the Federal Highway Administration to be transferred to the Federal Transit Administration. This request to the state can be made with a project sponsor, which can be the city, town or transit authority itself. Once the request is made the state will ultimately decide if the money will be reallocated to the FTA. Generally, this process will be done with the concurrence of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), whose purpose is to allocate funds among federal aid programs within a region. This request will go up to the state DOT who will transmit a letter to FHWA, who will then coordinate with the FTA. The transferred funds will funnel back down from the FTA to the regional transit provider or a designated grantee. That designated grantee can deliver the project on behalf of the project sponsor or can sub-grant those funds to localities or local authorities.
A key to this process is being in tight coordination with your transit authorities or transit agencies, so that they are both aware of these projects and on board with serving as either the implementation partner or the fiduciary agent. If your transportation authorities are not on board, they can decline to participate in the transfer of funding.
Benefits of Flexible Funding
In most cases, the FTA does not provide extensive oversight on smaller safety-related transit projects, allowing these project to be managed at the local level. To this end, more regard is often given to localities and road owners to make design decisions; there are processes that may allow for the use of standard drawings, as opposed to detailed engineering drawings for the bidding and construction of these projects. In addition, using flexible funding for smaller-scale transit projects can lessen the project management burden on the state, effectively reducing the time and cost for project delivery.
For more information, watch Getting Small Projects on the Ground Quicker, a virtual session at the 2022 National Bike Summit.