Reauthorizing transportation funding for trails


This page covers Reauthorization of Federal Transportation Funding for trails, as American Trails continues its 20 years of support for positive policies and funding for trails and greenways. Scroll down for links to opinions, politics, and calls to action from many sources.

arrow Every trail organization can help expand support for continued funding for trails, greenways, and recreation routes through the federal Recreational Trails Program. Just think, what would happen in your state if RTP disappeared? Read how you can join us in support of RTP...

arrow The 2011 federal budget: funding issues for trails


NEWS on Federal Transportation Funding


arrow February 11, 2011: The House Transportation Committee has scheduled a series of field hearings on Federal Transportation reauthorization during February, 2011, starting with West Virginia on Feb. 14 and moving on to the West Coast by Feb. 21-23.

arrow Presidents national debt commission proposes transportation funding mechanism that would increase federal gas tax

arrow February 4, 2011: "I'd like to have a transportation bill on the president's desk by the August recess," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday during a conference call with reporters. He expressed his belief that members of the House and Senate appear committed to complete the legislation.

arrow February 3, 2011: With the current federal budget debate, the mounting deficit, and proposed cuts to spending on every aspect of national programs, every program we rely on could be cut or eliminated. This means Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails Program, and Safe Routes to School could all disappear.

arrow January 28, 2011: According to a Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation article, "The idea that bicycle and pedestrian funding-- rather than general overall cuts to federal transportation spending-- might be specifically targeted is realistic given that a few members of the House, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, have repeatedly called for bicycle & pedestrian funding to be cut or eliminated." Read about past history of bicycle and pedestrian cuts proposed in federal budget.

arrow January 18: "There are no Republican or Democratic roads. There are no Republican or Democratic bridges," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Speaking at a transportation technology conference, LaHood expressed confidence that Congress would pass a multiyear bill to reauthorize the federal surface transportation programs.

arrow January 13: Transportation Secretary LaHood cited benefits of bicycle infrastructure in his blog. A recent study argues that pedestrian and bicycle projects create more jobs than road upgrades or resurfacing, and the CDC states 67% of Americans support street design that increases physical activity. "Putting the two studies together creates a powerful argument for continuing the Department of Transportation's support for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects, said LaHood. "Even as these investments increase mobility, they also generate economic growth. And, people are demanding them for their communities."

arrow December 22, 2010: Proposed House rules could reduce funds available through SAFETEA-LU, including trails and bike/ped programs. "This proposal simply ensures we won’t be required to spend more on transportation projects than we take in. At the same time, it protects the Highway Trust Fund by ensuring every penny of the gas tax is spent on highway and transit projects, rather than diverted to pay for other items that we simply cannot afford," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for the Republican transition team. Current rules require annual spending increases as set in SAFETEA-LU, regardless of how much revenue was collected from fuel tax. Congress has had to appropriate a total of $35 billion to cover the shortfall. See "House Republicans Release Proposed 112th Congress Rules Package"...

arrow December 14, 2010: FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM including trails and bike/ped programs may be extended until the end of the current federal fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2011). H.R. 3082 (Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) was passed by the House. The other possibility, according to one Washington insider, is "a Republican-backed two-month Continuing Resolution, which means we'd be fighting for our programs right away in the new year."

arrow December 8, 2010: U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) was confirmed as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 112th Congress. “The Committee must pass stalled major surface transportation, aviation, and water resources bills, and I will do so as soon as possible in a manner that protects the taxpayers and creates jobs. It is critical that Congress jumpstarts transportation projects to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and get people working,” Mica said.

arrow Dec. 1, 2010: "The future of trails in federal transportation funding" was the topic of a kenote address at the American Trails National Symposium by Eric B. Beightel, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Office of Transportation Policy. He stated that "The President proposed that the new transportation authorization be fiscally responsible– fully paid for and accountable for the public dollars spent. VMT is falling and we are encouraging the expansion of transit and active transport networks– neither of which produces revenue under the current structure.... As we move forward with the uncertainty of what a new transportation bill will look like, it’s important that you continue to work with your local planners and state DOTs to make sure that they understand the importance of trail projects. Please also consider how a new transportation bill can reflect your interests and share your ideas with the Department and with Congress."

arrow November 18, 2010: Lots of discussion at the American Trails National Symposium in Chattanooga on the future of funding for trails. US Department of Transportation officials proclaim "livability" is the rising tide of the future. However, we don't know what that really means or how it will translate into future allocations for the many competing transportation interests. Another political wave threatens to sweep away the many small "special interest" programs we have grown to know and love. CMAQ, Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to Schools, Recreational Trails? Unless a new groundswell of support emerges in every Congressional District in America, you can say goodbye now.

arrow September 28, 2010: According to a Sept. 28th Mobilizing the Regional article, "Transportation advocates looking for a fully funded multi-year transportation bill got a boost last week when USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood told members of the Transportation Equity Network that he had received a green light from the White House to move on the country's next 6-year transportation bill. According to Transportation for America, USDOT officials now expect to see a full reauthorization proposal from USDOT and the White House next February in the President's budget request for fiscal year 2012." "The Obama Administration's ability to move on a transportation bill next year will largely rest with the political appetite of Congress this fall. The current extension of SAFETEA-LU, the existing transportation law, expires on December 31. Insiders cited in the most recent issue of the Washington Letter on Transportation say Congress will weigh a new, 1-2 year extension of the law during this fall's 'lame duck' session. A short extension is key if a new long-term authorization bill is to move in 2011. If Congress instead opts for a two-year extension there would be 'little to no likelihood' of passage of such a bill during the 2012 presidential election cycle..."

arrowRep. Oberstar releases "blueprint" for federal transportation programs, including trails. Download the "committee print" of the new Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 is available in pdf format (1.3 mb)


More news on FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING for trails, bikeways, and pedestrian facilities

x July 29, 2010: The House passed its fiscal 2011 Transportation appropriations bill. In March 2010, $20 billion was transferred from the general fund to cover the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. That funding is projected to support the current funding levels through August 2011. According to "Roads & Bridges," the appropriations bill does not solve the underlying problem of the revenue shortage in the Highway Trust Fund. The highway and transit programs are currently operating under a short-term authorization that expires on Dec. 30. If a long-term reauthorization measure is not enacted by that date, Congress must again approve a short-term extension to avoid a shutdown in highway and transit funding.

arrowMay 26, 2010: U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" show. LaHood talked about bike lanes and "rails to trails" and noted that "People are looking for biking paths and walking paths, and paths where they can be with their families on the weekend and enjoy the great outdoors." On the role of the USDOT, he said "We know people are always going to have cars, but we also have to promote the idea that people want many forms of transportation: streetcars, light rail, buses, metros, biking, hiking, walking."

Interviewer Neal Conan asked "Does this mean that money that might otherwise have gone towards repairing a federal highway system, to the interstates, will instead be diverted to bike paths?" LaHood replied, "What it means is that some of the resources that we have at DOT will be used for many different modes of transportation... There will be resources for us to promote bike paths, walking paths, streetscapes so that we can paint these bike paths along streets. There's plenty of money for all of this." Read or listen to the interview at National Public Radio

arrow May 20, 2010: Washington, DC sources discussing reauthorization expressed their sense that Federal Transportation funding is going to be very difficult for the current Congress. One possible scenario is to keep extending the current programs, including Recreational Trails and Enhancements until after the 2012 elections. The problem for a President on his first term is that any meaningful solution to the funding shortfall is tax increases. With the debate over the cost of health care, financial bailouts and stimulus, the crunch in State budgets, etc.— there is probably not enough political horsepower now to address the tough transportation funding problem.

arrow March 22: The Highway Trust Fund was extended through the end of 2010 as part of the new jobs bill. US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated that "we need lawmakers and experts to think creatively about how we're going to fund our transportation infrastructure in the 21st century." With the health care bill in the hands of the lawyers for now, transportation funding should be one of the next priorities for Congress.

arrowMarch 19: The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act maintains current highway spending through the end of the next fiscal year. Reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge construction, had been operating on a series of 30-day extensions.

arrow March 3: SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. Extension #4 is extended through March 28, 2010. Surface Transportation Authorization discussions continue.

arrow Feb. 27: The Senate jobs bill passed this week includes a one-year reauthorization of the highway trust fund (SAFETEA). A $20 billion infusion of cash would make up for the continuing shortfall in gasoline tax revenues, and keep transportation spending in line with 2009. During a Senate Budget Committee hearing Feb. 24, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood when the Obama administration will reveal its plans for a new surface transportation bill. LaHood said that the administration would reveal its version “soon” after Congress passes the SAFETEA-LU extension.

photo of work on bridge

Junction Railroad Bridge was converted to a
pedestrian and bicycle bridge in Little Rock, AR

arrow Feb. 22: SAFETEA-LU funding was extended through February 28. Surface Transportation Authorization discussions continue, with proposals for immediate action and proposals for a long-term extension. One or more extension(s) is (are) expected; the House Jobs Bill may include an extension through September 2010.

arrow USDOT outreach meeting on surface transportation reauthorization scheduled for January 25, 2010

arrow Dec. 19, 2009: The House and Senate have both passed extensions of SAFETEA-LU transportation funding. The Senate gave existing highway funding programs a two-month reprieve today when it approved a Defense Department appropriations bill 88-12. Included in the defense bill is a continuing resolution that allows the government to disburse money under the terms of the 2005 surface transportation act known as SAFETEA-LU. The Senate extended the law until Feb. 28, 2010. The extension gives the Senate time to consider a jobs bill that also cleared the House on December 16. The bill directs $75 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), with two-thirds of the total going to the Department of Transportation for infrastructure programs.

arrow December 17, 2009: The House jobs bill (H.R. 2847) includes $27.5 billion going to highways proposes a 3 percent set-aside for transportation enhancements (TE), totaling $800 million.

arrowNov. 1: SAFETEA-LU extended to Dec. 18 as part of a continuing resolution for programs that Congress has not approved in the 2010 budget. Senators were unsuccessful in an attempt to forge a compromise extending the law for six months.

arrow Oct. 1, 2009: Federal transportation funding continues with one month extension of SAFETEA-LU; while the House approved a three-month extension Senate Democrats' preference is for 18-months. So October 30 is the deadline for the House and Senate to reach agreement.

arrow July 31, 2009: "We should not force states to spend approximately 10 percent of all their surface transportation program funds on 'enhancement' projects like landscaping, bicycle safety, and transportation museums," argue Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain in "Out of Gas: Congress Raids the Highway Trust Fund for Pet Projects While Bridges and Roads Crumble."


Support the Recreational Trails Program! Join our efforts with the Coalition for Recreational Trails to get RTP funding included in the next transportation bill and sign on to the letter supporting RTP. Will your state's trails program survive? See Concerns about the future of the Recreational Trails Program.




The following are some essential items to help trails and greenways supporters understand the current debate over the transportation value of these facilities:

RESOURCES on TRANSPORTATION FUNDING and the role of trails and greenways


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