New Transportation Bill Ahead in 2014

Margo PedrosoWhile it seems that the MAP-21 transportation law passed fairly recently, Congress only passed a two-year bill and MAP-21 expires in September 2014. Congress is starting to hold hearings on the transportation law and to consider how to fund the next bill. This gives us nine months to work with Congress to help them understand the impact of MAP-21 on creating safe routes to school and healthy communities, and areas of the law in which we would like to see improvements.

To make our case on Capitol Hill, it’s important to know how states are implementing the new Transportation Alternatives program (TAP). We have been tracking the decisions states make in many areas, including funding levels, staffing plans, matching requirements, when the first competitions will take place, and how Safe Routes to School projects will be treated.

With our latest update to the TAP state snapshot chart, as of December 1, 2013, we know that most states are using all available TAP funds, with a handful of states either transferring some funds away from TAP or supplementing it, and more than half of states have their application processes underway. But many states have not yet made decisions about how to proceed. We encourage Safe Routes to School advocates to review the decisions your state has made, and to work with advocates in your state to push states to maximize funding for TAP and to move forward with TAP competitions.

That brings me to our plans for 2014 on Capitol Hill. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has issued our legislative platform outlining the issues we will push for in the next transportation bill. We will focus our efforts in four key areas:

  1. Strengthening the Transportation Alternatives program: We’ll be looking to shore up funding, address the new Safe Routes to School funding match requirements, allow more entities to compete for projects and ease regulatory burdens.
  2. Address rising rates of bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities: The first step in this goal is already underway, with the new legislation requiring a safety performance measure to reduce non-motorized fatalities and serious injuries. This performance measure is critical to ensure states track non-motorized deaths and injuries, and use safety funds to reduce dangerous conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  3. Improve data collection and research: We’ll advocate for greater funding and emphasis on improving data collection and modeling for bicycle and pedestrian travel.
  4. Ensure that our transportation system is healthy and equitable: We’ll support a requirement for Complete Streets policies, more local control of transportation dollars and more equity in transportation decision-making.

Please take a look at our legislative platform for more details in each of these areas. Most importantly, be prepared to weigh in with Congress this year when we put out calls to action. We will need supporters of Safe Routes to School to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to come join you at Safe Routes to School events to make this platform a reality. 

So, let’s work together to ensure that 2014 is a year in which a transportation bill that is supportive of Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking is signed into law. Stay tuned for more specific calls to action and updates as Congress gets underway.