“The bike community is very happy with the result.”
— James Koski, Deputy Chief of Staff for Earl Blumenauer
The Transportation Enhancements (TE) program is an important pot of cash doled out by the Federal Highway Administration that states can put toward bicycle and pedestrian projects. In Portland, TE funds have helped us create such popular bikeways as the Eastbank Esplanade, parts of the Springwater Corridor Trail, and the Fanno Creek Trail (in Tigard).
During negotiations on the recently passed federal economic stimulus, many national bike advocacy groups were very concerned that TE funding would not be part of the package. The League of American Bicyclists sent out a national action alert urging members to notify their representative in the U.S. Senate to make sure the program made it through.
Thankfully, now comes word that the TE program made it through Capitol Hill nicely. According to Kevin Mills, the VP of Policy for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the stimulus bill includes a 3% set-aside of the entire $27.5 billion. That’s about $825 million out of the total infrastructure pot (which equates to about one years worth of typical TE funding).
In an email, Mills wrote, “This is an important accomplishment and opportunity, especially considering that we started with no funding.” But, he warns that challenges lie ahead in transportation funding re-authorization negotiations. “Particularly in the Senate,” he wrote, “where we failed to get TE explicitly included in their bill.”
Mills also shared some other pieces of the stimulus bill pie that could go toward bike projects: $170 million for “Park roads and parkways” and $1.5 billion for the “multi-modal discretionary fund.”
The amount of TE funding in the stimulus is a solid victory for non-motorized transportation advocates. Marianne Fowler is Sr. VP of Federal Relations for the Rails to Trails Conservancy. She wrote in an email today that, “All things considered, we’ve done well. We can do a whole lot of good with an extra shot of resources like this.” Fowler writes that they will now focus on reaching out to communities to make sure they spend the money quickly (on good projects of course).
James Koski, Deputy Chief of Staff in Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s office says, “the bike community is very happy with the result.”
But TE funding has important strings attached: 50% of a state’s unobligated funding (which includes TE) will be rescinded by the federal governement after 120 days and all unobligated funding will be rescinded after one year. That means if states don’t have their projects ready to go and/or don’t spend the money soon, they will lose it (Mills points out that the rescinded funds will be reallocated to states who have obligated all their funds).
[Metro areas are not subject to the 120 day obligation, but are subject to the one year obligation deadline.]
In past years, Oregon has sent back over $30 million in TE funds that were not allocated in time.