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U.S. DOT Issues Guidance on New Transportation Alternatives Program

The new surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), took effect October 1, 2012. Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) issued interim guidance on the new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that was established under the MAP-21. The TAP replaces the Transportation Enhancements program and also includes the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Recreational Trails (RTP) programs. Overall the guidance should be helpful to states and metropolitan planning organizations as they implement the bill. 

The following are some highlights from the guidance document that landscape architects may find useful:

Landscaping and Scenic Enhancement Projects:

  • MAP-21 changes the “landscaping and scenic beautification” eligibility category to “vegetation management.” However, landscaping and scenic enhancement projects ARE eligible under TAP as part of the construction of any federal-aid highway project, including TAP-funded projects. But TAP funds cannot be used for landscaping and scenic enhancement as independent projects.
  • Under the “vegetation management” category, routine maintenance is NOT eligible as a TAP activity except under the RTP.

Recreational Trails Program:

  • All RTP provisions and requirements remain unchanged under MAP-21.
  • MAP-21 makes RTP funding a set-aside from the TAP. However, the governor of a state may opt out of the RTP if it notifies the DOT Secretary not later than 30 days prior to apportionments being made for any fiscal year.
  • If a state opts out of the RTP, the funds remain as TAP funds.
  • If a state opts out of the RTP, the state may still carry out trail projects under the TAP. However, the trail projects would then be subject to all TAP requirements.

Safe Routes to School:

  • Due to its consolidation with TAP, Safe Routes to School projects will now fall under the same match requirements as most other transportation projects—80 percent federal funding with a 20 percent local match. (Under the previous surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, SRTS projects received 100 percent federal funding.)
  • 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. (Under SAFETEA-LU, SRTS coordinators were required.)

Scenic Byways:

  • MAP-21 eliminates the National Scenic Byways program. However, the following projects that may have been eligible under the National Scenic Byways program are eligible under TAP:
    o construction of turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas
    o historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic facilities related to a byway
    o bicycle and pedestrian facilities along a byway.

The Federal Highway Administration’s entire guidance document on the Transportation Alternatives Program may be found here. For additional information, please visit the MAP-21 Resource Center.

Also, last week, ASLA hosted a webinar, "Staying Active on Active Transportation: Implementing MAP-21 for Landscape Architects," that discussed some of the changes to active transportation programs under TAP and urged landscape architects to become active in state and local advocacy efforts on behalf of these programs.

If you have any questions about ASLA federal transportation issues, please contact ASLA Director of Federal Government Affairs Roxanne Blackwell at

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