I love hearing from our Safe Routes to School and active transportation community with questions about what’s happening on Capitol Hill and with federal policy. Here are some of the questions I got this month while Congress was on recess – and answers to those questions.
What federal funding programs are open that I can apply for to improve walking and bicycling?
Applications are OPEN for the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program. The application period closes on 9/28/20243. Reminder: there is $3 billion available this year alone! Please do not wait until next year. To learn more about this opportunity, which can fund community engagement and planning, and can be done with no federal match if in an underserved area, watch this webinar recording, read the Transportation Equity Caucus’ one pager and read our summary.
As always, keep an eye out on your state’s Transportation Alternatives Program application dates! TAP continues to be the leading source of federal funding for walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to School. Check out state-specific fact sheets on the program here.
What are Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessments, and how can I plug into them?
Recognizing that the places that are dangerous for cars and trucks are not necessarily the places that are unsafe for people walking and bicycling, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires states to develop a Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessment, a data-driven analysis of where fatalities and serious injuries are happening for non-motorist road users. It requires states to identify high risk areas, list projects and strategies to address these areas, and integrate this information into their Strategic Highway Safety Plan, thereby making these projects eligible for Highway Safety Improvement Program funds. The initial VRU safety assessments are due this November 2023!
Every state is required to complete this assessment. If you have not yet heard from your state department of transportation about it, and how you can provide input, we encourage you to reach out to their safety team. By law, and in accordance with guidance from the Federal Highway Administration, states are required to consult with stakeholders.
Is a government shutdown looming?
Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to say! The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, 2023, and Congress has yet to pass a budget. If Congress fails to pass a budget or a short-term stopgap measure), the government will shut down on October 1st. Conventional wisdom has it that it’s not likely that Congress will pass an FY24 budget by the end of this month, but that it is likely that they will pass a short-term measure to keep the government open. We may be waiting until the last moment to find out!
When does preparation for the next transportation reauthorization start?
November will mark two years since the adoption of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We are actively monitoring how implementation of Transportation Alternatives and Safe Routes to School provisions are going in the states, and thanks to analysis provided by our friends at the League of American Bicyclists, how the new Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessment and Vulnerable Road User Special Rule provisions are being implemented.
Equipped with an understanding of what’s working well, innovations from the states, and a sense of what needs to be fixed or improved, we are setting our sights ahead to the next transportation reauthorization. With that in mind, we would love to hear from you, the incredible Safe Routes to School community about what’s working well, examples from your state or community (good or bad), as well as what your pain points are. In the coming weeks and months, we will begin to flesh out our agenda for the next transportation reauthorization and connect with partners to do the same. We invite you to lend your voice to shape the next transportation bill. Email me at marisa at saferoutespartnership.org.