The Low-Down on Transportation Alternatives Funding for 2016

While Congress passed the new transportation law, the FAST Act, back in December, it takes time for US Department of Transportation to update their complicated formulas for how much states and localities get for various programs. Fortunately, that work is done and we now know the state-by-state breakdown of funding available for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects.

There is $835 million available nationwide in the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for fiscal year 2016.  Each state gets an allocation based on a number of factors, including population, road miles and more.  Funding amounts for each state range from around $3 million to $80 million.  The new funding table put out by the Federal Highway Administration provides you with your state’s funding level for TAP plus full details on how the funds are broken out by population in each state:

  • Areas over 200,000 people:  these funds are reserved for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) representing large cities.  They hold the competitions and choose the projects.  The funding amount available to each of these urban areas is also now available.
  • Areas between 5,000 and 200,000 people and areas under 5,000 people: your state department of transportation runs the competition and chooses the projects for these funds in lower populated areas.
  • Finally, half of the TAP money can be used in “any area” – meaning anywhere across the state.  This is also awarded by the state department of transportation through a competition; however, they can instead choose to transfer this funding to other transportation projects and programs.  

These seemingly complex funding divisions help ensure that communities of all sizes have a chance to compete for TAP money.  So in a rural state like North Dakota, nearly equal amounts are set aside for very small towns and mid-sized communities.  Whereas in a state like Texas, 65 percent of the population funds go to large cities.

In addition to knowing how much funding your state and cities have for the TAP, it’s also important to see your state’s history in using these dollars.  Our quarterly state of the states report will tell you if your state is transferring its TAP money to other transportation projects or not, and whether they have gotten a good start in awarding and obligating the funding for local projects.  It’s important that advocates hold their states accountable for making these funds available, and that when application processes are held to submit good projects.  Through demonstrating the need for safe routes for kids, we will be able to keep the momentum going for this program.