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Webinar Recap: Biden’s infrastructure plan and what it means for bikes

Last Thursday we presented a webinar with updates about federal transportation policy: the latest we know about the American Jobs Plan, transportation reauthorization, how they work together, and what’s possible for bicycling. Here’s the recap.

What’s in the American Jobs Plan for bicycling?

You’ve probably heard about the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan. The $2.3 trillion infrastructure and economic recovery package — which includes investment into categories such as broadband, community-based care, and workforce development — goes further than we’ve ever seen. Within the $571 transportation infrastructure category, here are the major programs that would affect biking and walking:

$115B for Highways, Roads and Bridges

The current program emphasizes new capacity and makes it hard to do maintenance, encouraging states to build new roads instead of repairing existing infrastructure. This part of the new plan would modernize 20,000 miles of roads and highways, fix the ten most economically important bridges (such as the Gateway project connecting New York and New Jersey), and repair another 10,000 bridges, which would reach more rural areas. It also includes upgrades to ports, airports, and transit systems.

Most notable, though, is the commitment to not only “fix them first” but “fix them right” to a Complete Streets standard of safety and accessibility that includes all road users and specifically calls out people bicycling and walking. Having the White House uplift vulnerable road users like this is a significant step forward. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take part in our action alert to tell Congress to support this vision for Complete Streets.

$5B for Transportation Alternatives

We’re always happy to see more support for Transportation Alternatives. The funds from this program–nearly all of which go to biking and walking projects–get to every state and allow every community an opportunity to apply for them. And if the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act makes it through Congress (click here to help us make it happen), these dollars will go even further toward funding meaningful local projects.

$20B for Roadway Safety

It’s unusual to see stimulus funding focused on safety like this. We often see safety as one of the uses of funds, but almost never as a primary use category. Not only that, but this plan addresses “Safety of All Users,” which explicitly includes people biking and walking. The safety section also focuses on funding local vision zero and safety plans, an indicator of support for increasing local control, and on addressing roads within communities, a shift from the status quo of only focusing on roads between places. Half of this safety money, $10 billion, is slated to go to the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). And while very little of HSIP funding currently goes to bicyclist and pedestrian safety, that could change if we get some of our reauthorization asks.

$25B for Reconnecting Communities

President Biden’s plan includes $25 billion to “redress historic inequities and build the future of transportation infrastructure.” Broken down into two categories, “Highway to Community” and “Thriving Communities,” this plan seeks to reconnect neighborhoods that were torn apart in the 50’s and 60’s by targeted, destructive, inner-city highway projects. While we have yet to learn what exactly this new program will mean for biking and walking, we know that the plan places racial equity, environmental justice, and affordable access at its center.

$25B for Accelerating Transformative Investments

The last major category we want to mention is the $25 billion to accelerate transformative investments. This fund is dedicated to supporting ambitious projects that may be too large or complicated for existing programs but would have tangible benefits for the regional or even national economy. From pre-development all the way through construction, the goal for this program is to turn “shovel worthy” projects into “shovel ready” projects.

What will be the effect on transportation reauthorization?

The American Jobs Plan is just that: a plan. It offers important prep work and sets priorities and standards for people-centric infrastructure moving forward. But it is not legislative language; it does not change policy. We still need transportation reauthorization to develop these programs, and those details are all up to Congress.

The plan is also not bipartisan, which it needs to be in order to pass as legislation and create significant, lasting change as law. Major questions still need to be worked out, such as how to fund these programs and how to distribute funds to recipients, but it’s off to a good start.

In other news…

Members’ Day Hearing is today, April 14

This is the opportunity for Members of Congress who are not on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to testify and share their priorities for the next reauthorization. The hearing begins at 11:00am eastern time and will be available via livestream on the T&I Committee’s website. Click here to watch the hearing.

Member Designated Projects are due April 23

Originally due April 16, the deadline has been extended one week for Members of Congress to submit their applications for local transportation projects to include as earmarks in reauthorization. Each office will have $15-20 million for projects. In case you missed our webinar about earmarks, you can find more information on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee website. Rails to Trails Conservancy also put out a helpful resource explaining the process.