Advocacy

Issue Brief: The Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act

THE ISSUE 

ASLA supports legislation that will enhance and improve the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which will allow landscape architects to plan and design bicycle and pedestrian projects for all communities across the country.

Background & Analysis

Senators Thad Cochran (MS) and Ben Cardin (MD) introduced S.705, the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act (TAPIA) on March 11, 2015.  This bipartisan legislation makes changes to the TAP program to make it easier for states and local governments to efficiently and effectively access funding.

Currently, TAP has several limiting provisions that are hindering communities from maximizing the benefits of the program. These limitations include:  

  • Funding Distribution - Currently, TAP funds are distributed to states where 50 percent of funds go to a state run grant program, and 50 percent are distributed to communities based on population. In many communities, especially in small and rural areas, this means funding is often too small for more than one project.
    • TAPIA changes the formula so that two-thirds of the funding is distributed by population, which ensures a fairer distribution. 
     
  • Eligible Applicants – Under current law, non-profits and small Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are NOT eligible to receive TAP funds. States do not have the flexibility to contract with qualified non-profits to run Safe Routes to School education programs and small MPOs cannot compete for projects.
    • TAPIA restores eligibility for non-profits and small MPOs to serve as project sponsors. 
     
  • Regulatory Requirements – MAP-21 created an inequitable regulatory environment for TAP, in which these small projects are subjected to the same rules and regulations as large highway projects.  These regulations impose higher costs and delays for cities and schools that implement these projects.
    • TAPIA would ensure effective use of federal dollars and avoid unnecessary delays in local project implementation by applying the same regulatory standards to TAP as to similar projects built under other federal transportation programs.
     
  • Local Match – TAP requires each individual project to meet a strict 20 percent local match, with federal funds covering the remaining 80 percent.  Many communities, particularly small and underserved communities, are unable to raise the local match, forcing them to forego much-needed projects.
    • TAPIA would allow states and MPOs to meet the 80/20 requirement across a group of projects, or across the entire program. This allows the state or MPO to reduce or waive the match for smaller, underserved communities.
     

Sponsors

Senator Thad Cochran (MS) and co-sponsors

Current Status

The Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act (S. 705) was introduced on March 11, 2015 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

History

The original TAP amendment to MAP-21, sponsored by Senators Cochran (MS) and Cardin (MD) was predicated on the idea that local governments should have decision-making power over a small amount of federal transportation funding for local transportation priorities, such as bikeways and sidewalks. During the first two years of MAP-21 implementation stakeholders have identified small changes that would restore flexibility to the state, while increasing local control to communities.

Resources

FHWA – Transportation Alternatives Guidance
FHWA Webinar - MAP-21 Final TAP Guidance
US DOT MAP-21 Resources  
Active Transportation Resources

Related ASLA Policies

Transportation Corridors & Facilities

Livable Communities
Urban Growth and Development
Universal Design

Contact

ASLA Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org 

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