Issue Brief: MAP-21 and the Transportation Alternatives Program


The American Society of Landscape Architects supports the reauthorization of a surface transportation bill that promotes all modes of transportation, including bicycling, walking, and transit use. ASLA advocates for the inclusion of a robust Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), with a strong Recreational Trails Program (RTP), and an enhanced Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program, as well as a federal Complete Streets.

Background & Analysis

In 1992, Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which established the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program and began a legacy of including active transportation programs and projects in federal surface transportation bills. Upon the expiration of ISTEA, TE and other active transportation programs were 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 surface transportation programs were carried out through a series of legislative extensions of SAFETEA-LU.

On July 6, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which reauthorized the nation’s surface transportation laws at current spending levels through September 2014. The law went into effect on October 1, 2012.

After vigorous and sustained advocacy efforts, ASLA successfully convinced Congress to continue active transportation programs, like the Transportation Alternatives, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails programs in the new transportation law – MAP-21. However, the new law made several changes to these programs that may impact landscape architecture projects.

Active Transportation Projects under MAP-21

Transportation Alternatives (formerly Enhancements):

Under MAP-21, the Transportation Enhancements program is re-named the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), with the 12 eligible project categories consolidated into six categories. The bill eliminated the bike/ped safety and education programs, transportation museums, and the acquisition of scenic and historic easements categories. TAP now includes the Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

The six eligible projects categories:
  • continue bike/ped facilities and expand the definition of these projects
  • establish a category for safe routes for non-drivers, including children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities
  • retain conversion of abandoned railroad corridors for trails for pedestrians and bicyclists, or other non-motorized transportation users
  • retain the construction of turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas (However, the National Scenic Byways Program was not reauthorized)
  • retain the environmental mitigation activities category
    • to address stormwater management control and water pollution prevention, and wetlands mitigation
    • to reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality  
  • establish a community improvement category that includes:
    • inventory control of outdoor advertising
    • historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities
    • vegetation management practices in transportation rights-of–way (formerly landscaping and scenic beautification)
      • landscaping and scenic enhancement projects ARE eligible under TAP as part of the construction of any federal-aid highway project, including TAP-funded projects
      • under this vegetation management category, routine maintenance is NOT eligible as TAP activity, except under the RTP
      • archaeological activities related to transportation projects
Recreational Trails Program: 

Under MAP-21, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is continued at the current funding levels as a set-aside from TAP.  RTP will continue to operate as it did under SAFETEA-LU. However, the governor of each state may opt out of the RTP if he/she notifies the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary not later than 30 days prior to apportionments being made for any fiscal year.

Safe Routes To School:

The Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program is eliminated as a stand-alone program, but SRTS projects are eligible for funding under the TAP.  As such, SRTS projects are now subject to all TAP requirements, including the same match requirements – 80 percent federal funding, with a 20 percent local match.  SRTS coordinators are not required under MAP-21, but are eligible for funding under TAP.  Thus, states may decide to retain their SRTS coordinators and use TAP funds to pay for them.

National Scenic Byways Program:

The National Scenic Byways program was not reauthorized under MAP-21. However, some scenic byway type projects, like turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas will be eligible under category 4 of TAP.

Complete Streets:

The language that would have established a national Complete Streets policy was NOT included in the final MAP-21 law.  The language was originally incorporated in the Safety for Motorized and Non-Motorized Users provisions of the Senate Commerce Committee’s freight title of the Senate-passed transportation bill.  During the conference negotiations the entire freight title came under fire and was removed from the final bill. However, the Highway Safety Improvement Program language in the report includes a new, more comprehensive definition of street users that is based on Complete Streets language.

Transportation Alternatives Funding:

TAP will receive about $780 million to carry out all projects, including SRTS and RTP projects across the country, which represents about a 35 percent reduction from the current $1.2 billion spent on these programs. States will sub-allocate 50 percent of their TA funds to Metropolitan Planning Organizations and local communities to run a grant program to distribute funds for projects. States could use the remaining half for TA projects or could spend these dollars on other transportation priorities.


FHWA – Transportation Alternatives Guidance
FHWA Webinar - MAP-21 Final TAP Guidance  
Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE)
ASLA MAP-21 Webinar Recording
ASLA MAP-21 Webinar (Slides only)  
US DOT MAP-21 Resources
Federal Grant Opportunities
Active Transportation Resources
ASLA Statement on Passage of the Surface Transportation Conference Report, June, 2012

Advocacy Tools

Partnership for Active Transportation – get involved with local advocacy efforts to fund trails, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects  
Advocacy Advance – get involved with local advocacy efforts to fund active transportation projects in your communities

ASLA Related Policies

Transportation Corridors and Facilities
Urban Growth and Development 
Livable Communities


ASLA Government Affairs