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American Society of Landscape Architects


August 2007 Issue

Federal highway dollars can help fund landscape architecture projects, but it pays to do your homework before heading down this road.

By Linda McIntyre


Most landscape architects know that federal government money is available for projects related to transportation. But where do you get started, and how do you make the most of these opportunities? Landscape Architecture spoke with landscape architects around the country to find out.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 established the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. The program, which has been included in all subsequent iterations of federal highway legislation—the most recent of which goes by the cumbersome title of Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users—sets aside 10 percent of a state’s total federal highway funds for cultural, aesthetic, and environmental projects. The federal government pays up to 80 percent of an approved project’s cost. Project sponsors, usually local governments, often working with community groups, pay the balance.

While the program lays out a list of designated activities and requires that projects “relate to surface transportation” (see “Transportation Enhancements at a Glance,” page 69), this broad language offers opportunities for landscape architects, according to David Fasser, FASLA, who until his retirement in 2002 served as the director of landscape architecture for the New York State Department of Transportation.

“Landscape architects must become familiar with what’s eligible,” says Fasser, who continues to consult on transportation issues. “Then they are in a strong position to work with communities to identify projects and develop justification for the eligibility.” Effectively navigating the program, says Fasser, also enables landscape architects to identify potential projects that they themselves can propose to communities.

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