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Streetscape Projects and the New Transportation Alternatives Program

Recently, the National Transportation Alternatives Clearinghouse (NTAC, formerly the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse), which is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), issued a publication, What’s on Tap? Vegetation Management: Incorporating Landscaping and Scenic Beautification, explaining how federal landscaping and other scenic beautification projects may be continued under the new surface transportation law, MAP-21.

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Under MAP-21’s new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), the new vegetation management category (Activity 7) replaced the old landscaping and scenic beautification category (Activity 5) and allows vegetation projects that provide roadway safety, invasive species management, and erosion control in transportation rights-of-way. However, nothing in the law prevents these new vegetation management projects from being aesthetically pleasing and providing scenic enjoyment while achieving their statutory goals of roadway safety, invasive species management, and erosion. The NTAC document illustrates this point by providing examples of transportation projects that successfully achieve both these objectives.

The NTAC publication also points out that landscaping and scenic enhancements continue to be eligible as part of the construction of any federal-aid highway project under 23 U.S.C. 319, including TAP-funded projects, which means that landscape architects may continue to plan and design transportation projects that incorporate critical aesthetic and scenic goals so long as they are part of the holistic approach to a transportation project. FHWA, through guidance language, has made it clear that TAP funds cannot be used for landscaping and scenic enhancement as independent projects. Once again, the article provides examples of projects that successfully used TAP funds to “incorporate” landscaping and scenic beautification.

ASLA encourages its members to visit and use the National Transportation Alternatives Clearinghouse website for up-to-date publications and guidance on the new Transportation Alternatives program.

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