Transformative Trail Advocacy

Photo by Eric Kayne/AP Images for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

As the nation’s largest trails advocacy organization, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) works with nearly 600 organizations and hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters to advocate for vital investments for trails, walking and bicycling at the federal, state and local levels.

RTC’s leadership has secured billions of federal, state and local dollars for trails and active transportation projects over the past three decades. This includes $20+ billion dedicated to 40,000+ projects to date through Transportation Alternatives (TA) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP)—the nation’s legacy sources of federal funding for trails.

Related: Sidewalks, Bike Lanes and Trails Are Essential Transportation Infrastructure | The Hill

In FY 2021, $850 million in Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program funds was dedicated to trails, walking and biking projects.

Passing a Visionary Transportation Bill

Courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images

RTC and partners worked tirelessly with our champions on Capitol Hill in FY 2021—carrying out 100+ Hill visits and federal agency interactions—to define a visionary transportation bill aimed at increasing funding for the legacy programs, TA and RTP, while creating a new program to deliver investments in safe, connected active transportation infrastructure in and between communities.

RELATED: The Case for Funding Bike Infrastructure | Vox

In FY 2021, 51,000 messages were sent to decision-makers at all levels as a result of RTC advocacy, including 33,000 petition signatures to federal officials in support of increased funding for trails and active transportation.

The final bill was passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November 2021. The bill included unprecedented investment in trails, walking and biking alongside significant policy changes intended to increase investment in connecting trails—making access to trails and active transportation more equitable, and making it safer and more convenient to walk and bike where we need to go. Included were:

  • A nearly 70% increase for the legacy TA program (which includes the RTP) to an average of $1.44 billion per year
  • Authorization of the innovative Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program at $200 million per year
  • New safety- and climate-planning requirements that could lead to additional funding for trails where they contribute to addressing these issues

Learn more in this analysis blog.

Unlocking Billions for Trails in the States

Indiana's Pennsy Greenway | Photo by TrailLink user tommyspan
Indiana's Pennsy Greenway | Photo by TrailLink user tommyspan

RTC stood shoulder-to-shoulder with partners in 17 states to advocate for funding and promote legislative collaboration to support the completion of statewide trail networks resulting in a collective amount of nearly $1.35 billion for trails in FY 2021.

This includes a $35 million appropriation in Utah for active transportation (and additional funds for which trails are eligible), a $10+ million allocation for trails in Virginia, and a $500 million appropriation in California for coastal resiliency efforts, in which trails are eligible. Indiana, with support from its growing bipartisan legislative trails caucus, allocated $60 million in American Rescue Plan dollars for its Next Level Trails fund and designated 2021 the Year of the Trails in the Hoosier State.

Female biker
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Trails Transform America

Congress is working on the FY 2023 appropriations bill. Learn about RTC’s efforts to secure full funding for the innovative connectivity grants included in the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program.


Federal Highway Administration logo

RTP Underfunded by $200 Million Annually, Study Finds

A study in 2021 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) long sought by RTC and Congressional partners found that RTP, which gets $84 million per year from off-road vehicle gas taxes via the Highway Trust Fund, could receive triple that amount, if fully funded by Congress.

RELATED: Federal Recreational Trails Program Underfunded by $200M+ Per Year | Streetsblog


A Visionary Active Transportation Agenda

In November 2020, RTC and PeopleForBikes released our “Federal Agenda for Active Transportation in 2021”—outlining how trails and trail networks could serve as key components of America’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.


Photo by Seattle DOT | CC BY 2.0
Photo by Seattle DOT | CC BY 2.0

Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE)

In FY 2021, $850 million in TA + RTP funds were dedicated to trails, walking and bicycling projects across the country. For detailed historical data on TA and RTP spending since 1991, go to RTC’s Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE).