Twenty years of experience has shown that bicycling and walking projects generally do better at lower levels of government. Cities and regions often value investments in bicycling and walking projects have more clearly than states do. That’s why bicyclists strongly supported the bi-partisan Cardin-Cochran amendment to the Senate transportation bill. The Cardin Cochran increased local control over a small portion of transportation spending – slightly less than half the TA funds – by requiring regional planning agencies, called Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), to directly allocate funds to local projects, without being overruled by the state DOT. Although some of the details have changed, the basic principle has been retained in the final version of the law, known as MAP-21.
Local demand for bicycling and walking projects is overwhelming. Now we have a measure of local control to direct these funds, known in MAP-21 as Transportation Alternatives (TA). Half the TA funds will be distributed to MPOs and rural areas. The state allocated the other half – as long as they do not transfer it to other programs.
If this program works well over the next two years, it will send a powerful signal to Congress that we need to expanding biking and walking programs. If agencies drag their feet – it won’t look good.
To make sure we don’t go back on twenty years of progress, we need every state to immediately fully fund, staff, and implement the new Transportation Alternatives program and make full use of all of MAP-21’s programs.