Issue Brief: Transportation Enhancements

The Issue
The American Society of Landscape Architects strongly supports the reauthorization of the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program and urges full funding for this program that provides critical community transportation projects and important opportunities for landscape architects.

Background & Analysis:
Communities across America are using Transportation Enhancements (TE) funds to expand travel choice, strengthen the local economy, manage stormwater runoff, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life.

The federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program was created in 1992, as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) to provide federal assistance for community-based surface transportation related projects.  States are apportioned funding from the Highway Trust Fund for a number of transportation programs including the Surface Transportation Program (STP).  States are then required to reserve ten percent of STP funding to be used for Transportation Enhancements.

 TE funds may be used for several types of transportation-related community activities. These project categories include:

  • pedestrian and bicycle facilities;
  • safety and education activities for pedestrians and bicyclists;
  • preservation of abandoned railway corridors and the conversion and use of the corridors for pedestrian or bicycle trails;
  • environmental mitigation to address water pollution due to highway runoff or to reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity;
  • green infrastructure and other landscape design;
  • archeological planning and research;
  • acquisition of scenic easements and scenic or historic sites, including historic battlefields;
  • scenic or historic highway programs including tourist and welcome centers;
  • historic preservation;
  • rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures, or facilities;
  • inventory control, and removal of outdoor advertising;
  • establishment of transportation museums.

 TE funds are available for all phases of eligible projects including planning, design, property acquisition, preliminary engineering, construction, and management.  TE funds may not be used for routine maintenance or standard environmental mitigation.

Current Status:
Upon the expiration of ISTEA, the TE program was reauthorized in subsequent surface transportation reauthorization measures including the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).  SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009 and the TE program is currently funded through a legislative extension of SAFETEA-LU.

On November 9, 2011, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously passed a two-year surface transportation reauthorization bill known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21 (S. 1813). The Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails programs are all continued under the bill.  However, the measure removes the current dedicated funding for each program and instead lumps all three programs together along with programs to build high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) roads and wetlands mitigation projects.  Specifically, the programs would be consolidated and listed as “eligible uses” under a subset of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) with funding for all three programs limited to $833 million.  This represents about a $313 million cut from 2010 funding levels for the programs.  Moreover, the proposal would also allow states to “opt out” of these pedestrian and bicycle programs and divert their portion of funding to spend on other CMAQ road projects.  

 MAP-21 would also consolidate 12 of the TE eligible project categories into 10 categories, by eliminating the “establishment of transportation museums” category and combining two historic preservation categories into one.  Further, the “landscaping and scenic beautification” category has been renamed “vegetation management practices.”


 ASLA Related Policies:


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