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From earmarks to applications – FHWA announces $422 million in grant opportunities
The Federal Highway Administration has announced that $422 million in discretionary grant funds is available from 11 funding sources. Much of the funding for these programs in the past has been directed by Congressional earmarks, leaving little to merit and the actual discretion of the Federal Highway Administration. However, the FY2011 budget requires that all funds be discretionary, meaning that projects will be based on merit selection through an application process.
- Delta Region Transportation Development – $10 million
- Ferry Boat – $47 million
- Highways for LIFE – $20 million
- Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment – $4.5 million
- Interstate Maintenance – $100 million
- National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation – $9 million
- National Scenic Byways – $43.5 million
- Public Lands Highways – $98.5 million
- Rail Highway Crossing Hazard Elimination in High Speed Rail Corridors – $21 million
- Transportation, Community, and System Preservation – $61 million
- Truck Parking Facilities – $7.5 million
Bicycle and pedestrian projects are eligible for almost all federal-aid transportation programs. If advocacy groups are aware of eligible projects, they should work with the appropriate elected and agency officials to develop a proposal.
Click on each program above for program-specific selection criteria. Several of the programs in this grant process hold particular opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian projects:
Ferry Boat: These funds have been used for bike racks on ferry boats and at ferry terminals in the past. Modest-sized requests for projects that improve access to under-served areas and carry the largest number of passengers will be most competitive. States will prioritize applications before submitting to FHWA.
National Scenic Byways: The eligible program activities include “construction along a scenic byway of a facility for pedestrians and bicyclists, rest area, turnout, highway shoulder improvement, overlook, or interpretive facility.” About 10 percent National Scenic Byway funds historically have gone to bicycle and pedestrian projects. This program historically has been protected from earmarks by former-Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar. Priority will be given to projects that: 1. Have a livability component, 2. Have strategic benefits, 3. Are a State’s priority, 4. Benefit the byway user, 5. Meet critical needs, 6. Complete prior projects, 7. Are ready to implement, and 8. Leverage other funds.
Public Lands Highways: PLH provides funds for transportation a project that is “adjacent to, or provides access to Federal lands or facilities.” “Provision for pedestrians and bicycles” are listed as an eligible program activity. Projects will be given priority that 1. Are a state priority, 2. Leverage other funding, 3. Help complete an existing project, 4. Are a modest-sized grant request, 5. Address sate of good repair, and 6. Address livability, including safety improvements, traffic calming, multi-modal connections, and planning.
Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program (TCSP): TCSP could potentially be a significant opportunity for bicycle and pedestrian projects, an FHWA official told me; many previous TCSP projects have benefited pedestrians and bicyclists. States, MPOs, and local governments can receive grants for projects that will “improve the efficiency of the transportation system, reduce environmental impacts of transportation, reduce the need for costly future public infrastructure investments, ensure efficient access to jobs, services and centers of trade, and examine development patterns and identify strategies to encourage private sector development patterns which achieve these goals.” Livability (incl. Safety improvements, Complete street strategies, Traffic calming, Street connectivity improvements, Reduction of conflicts through access management, Development of livability plans) is the first criterion listed.
The programs described above have perhaps the largest potential to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects, but all of the programs should be watched carefully. For example, agencies need to be reminded of the importance of including bicycle and pedestrian access in bridge projects. Interstate Maintenance projects could affect usability at Interstate highway interchanges and where infrastructure crosses over or under Interstate highways. In addition, bicycling advocates should monitor the Rail Highway Crossing Hazard Elimination In High Speed Rail Corridors program to make sure that safety improvements do not detour cycling routes by eliminating at-grade crossings without replacing access for bicyclists and pedestrians.
We hope that bicycling and walking advocacy groups are able to work with their local agencies to access these funds. The Advocacy Advance staff look forward to assisting advocates in encouraging their state and local transportation agencies in submitting applications. We also encourage agencies who receive these discretionary funds to share your successful applications with us as we compile of resources and best practices.
Applications are due to local FHWA Division Offices by June 3, 2011. Contact information for each local FHWA Division Office can be found at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/about/field.cfm.