We have been beating the drum for several months now to encourage states to fully spend their Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds before the critical deadline of September 30, 2017, when any unused FY2014 funds would expire after four years.
The numbers are finally in, with our new quarterly report on TAP spending. The good news is that most states took their responsibilities under TAP seriously – nearly $350 million in TAP funds were obligated just between July and September – meaning hundreds, if not thousands, of Safe Routes to School, biking, and walking projects are moving forward. We commend the large majority of states for taking seriously the importance of making improvements that keep kids and families safe and provide healthy transportation options.
Unfortunately, several states opted out of fully using their TAP dollars on biking and walking this quarter. Eight states (AL, CT, IA, LA, NH, NV, OR, WI) transferred $29.5 million in TAP funding to other road and bridge projects within the states. Most notable of this group is Iowa, who transferred funding for the first time. Iowa transferred nearly $16 million, which is half of its TAP funds for the last four years.
Four states (GA, MD, NJ, NC) also let a total of $17 million in TAP funding lapse. Funding only lapses if it has not been obligated after four years. Lapsed funds expire and are returned to the federal government. States who allowed this to happen forfeited money meant for safety and transportation by simply not planning ahead. Advocates know that there are indeed Safe Routes to School, biking and walking projects that could desperately use these funds, but the state DOTs did not fulfill their responsibilities to ensure the TAP money was obligated in time.
Please take a look at the quarterly TAP report and see how your state is handling its TAP funding. Numbers highlighted in red on the chart identify when a state has transferred new funding this quarter, or let funding lapse. If you have questions or would like to discuss further, please reach out to Margo Pedroso.
In other news on Capitol Hill, Congress continues to work to reach agreement on the FY18 appropriations. We don’t yet know whether the Woodall amendment that would undermine local access to transportation funding will be included in the final deal, so please continue to reach out to your local leaders to encourage them to express opposition to the amendment. And, USDOT Secretary Chao recently publicly stated that any infrastructure package will wait until after Congress completes work on a tax cuts and reform package—which would almost certainly push it at least till next spring.
(Note: An earlier version of this blog was published with erroneous information on funding lapses. Four additional states--Alaska, Arizona, New Hampshire, and South Carolina--were mistakenly indicated to have let lapse more than $1 million each in TAP funding when they did not let any funds lapse. We greatly apologize to those states for the calculation error and this post and the chart have been updated with the corrected information.)