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After many delays, short-term extensions, and plenty of disagreement, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was passed by Congress and signed by the president last week. The FAST Act is the first long-term transportation bill passed in a decade.
What’s the news for people who walk or ride bikes? From our friends at the League of American Bicyclists:
Transportation Alternatives Program
This program is the most prominent funding source for biking and walking infrastructure projects. The FAST bill makes some policy changes:
Nonprofit organizations are now eligible to apply for funds. This makes it easier for nonprofits to do safety and education for Safe Routes to School programs. It also means that nonprofits who run bike share programs can apply directly.
Funding increases from $820 million to $835 million in 2016 and 2017 and to $850 million in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
The program maintains its competitive nature.
Metropolitan areas that get their own funding can use half of it for roads and bridges. However, that funding would still have to go through a competitive process.
Change in Name
The funding program is no longer a stand-alone program. It is no longer the Transportation Alternatives program; it is now a set-aside in the larger Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. We’ll have to find a better way to reference it.
New Bicycle and Pedestrian education program
The FAST Act creates a priority safety fund to reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. The program will focus on:
education of law enforcement;
education of motorists, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians; and
implementation of enforcement campaigns.
Only states in which 15% or more of overall fatalities are bicyclists or pedestrians will receive funds. Last year Congress passed a directive to require states and metropolitan areas to set goals for reducing bicyclist and pedestrian crashes and fatalities. This new program will help states fund that work.
The FAST Act directs the US DOT to encourage states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations to set design standards to accommodate all road users. It also requires the US DOT to produce a report on implementation and best practices in two years.
The bill also broadens the guidelines state can use when designing roads, and gives local jurisdictions the right to choose different guides from the state in certain circumstances. This allows local governments, who often want to be more progressive, the opportunity to do so.
Many thanks to the League and others who were on the scene in D.C. to put the pressure on Congress to include active transportation in this bill and to send out alerts when it looked like things might be going badly. And a special thanks to YOU for responding quickly to our Action Alerts and contacting your representatives. You made a difference on this bill!
We’ll continue to monitor what comes next once the money for bike/ped projects opens up. We’ve spent the last couple of years asking TxDOT to make better choices for TAP funding instead of transferring funds away from active transportation uses, and we’ll continue to be there to encourage them to follow through on education, accommodation, and design to make Texas a great place to ride a bike.