Act Now to Access New Federal Funding for Trails

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Federal Transportation Funding for Trails, Walking and Biking


In November 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act (IIJA)—also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)—that included the five-year reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. This bill significantly increased funds for trails and active transportation programs, bolstering familiar, long-standing programs and added new funding opportunities for trails, walking and biking.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has long championed transformative policy changes to drive mode shift by increasing funding for active transportation and creating accountability for progress on climate, equity and safety. The increase in funding for trails, walking and biking under this new law creates urgency to support communities in accessing these funds in a timely manner to demonstrate the demand that exists for this funding and to accelerate the creation of trail networks and safe walking and biking routes to routine destinations—essential infrastructure to make it safe and convenient for more people to walk and bike where they want to go. Prioritizing such projects across funding programs will set important precedents and success on the ground will build political will for future progress.

RTC’s federal funding resources offer the latest information about potential federal funding opportunities for trails and active transportation, as well as tools to help communities successfully apply for grants or navigate reimbursement programs.

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Related: RTC's Full Breakdown of Trail and Active Transportation Funding Opportunities in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law


Dedicated Active Transportation Funding Sources


These programs provide federal funding that is dedicated to trails, walking and biking.

Cherry Creek Regional Trail | Photo by TrailLink user angiedickson
Cherry Creek Regional Trail | Photo by TrailLink user angiedickson
Transportation Alternatives

The nation’s largest dedicated federal funding source for trails and active transportation. New guidance instructs state DOTs on how to implement the TA funding in alignment with policy changes included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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Hudson River Greenway | Photo by TrailLink user umardrr1225
Hudson River Greenway | Photo by TrailLink user umardrr1225
Recreational Trails Program

Funded by gas taxes paid by off-road vehicles, the Recreational Trails Program is the only federal funding source for trail maintenance.

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Photo courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images
Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program

This new program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), establishes a competitive grant program focused on connecting active transportation infrastructure.

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Multimodal Programs


These multimodal transportation programs are broader in scope and more competitive due to expanded eligibility but create opportunities for trail and active transportation projects and can address specific issues like climate, equity and safety.

Photo courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images
Climate and Environment

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and driving less is essential to reduce emissions. Programs like the Carbon Reduction Program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program can be used to develop connected active transportation infrastructure that provides walking and biking routes to routine destinations.

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Photo courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images
Equity

Creating and expanding trail and active transportation networks increases mobility options, especially for those who cannot or choose not to drive. Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grants and the new Reconnecting Communities program specifically address the need to reduce barriers that limit mobility choice and disproportionately impact underserved communities.

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Photo by Anthony Le
Photo by Anthony Le
Safety

Trails and active transportation networks can play a critical role in reducing serious injuries and fatalities by separating vulnerable road users from traffic and providing connected walking and biking routes to routine destinations. The Safe Streets and Roads for All Program and the Highway Safety Improvement Program create new opportunities and requirements to invest in vulnerable road user safety.

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Other Eligible Funding Sources


Trails and active transportation projects are eligible for funding under these programs that are competitive against other local and state priorities.

Photo courtesy Senate Democrats | CC BY 2.0
Photo courtesy Senate Democrats | CC BY 2.0
American Rescue Plan/Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

These funds are intended to provide relief and assistance to local, state and tribal governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia | Photo by Milo Allerton
Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia | Photo by Milo Allerton
Earmarks

These funds support local priorities and are requested by members of Congress.

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Photo courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images
Rural Surface Transportation Grant (RSTG)

The Rural Surface Transportation Grant (RSTG) program supportS projects that will improve and expand surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas

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All Other Programs

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a variety of new and robust funding sources for trails and active transportation networks, as well as new eligibility and increased funding for existing programs.

VIEW ALL PROGRAMS LIST

RELATED: USDOT Funding Chart

The USDOT has created a very detailed and comprehensive chart documenting all their pedestrian and bicycle funding sources. This document includes project types and links to funding sources.

DOWNLOAD CHART

Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s (RTC) Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE) is the nation’s go-to transportation funding data source for trails and active transportation, tracking TA spending for tens of thousands of projects.

EXPLORE TrADE

Wisconsin’s Oak Leaf Trail | Photo by Front Room Media

For 30 years, over $20 billion in federal funds have been invested in trails and walking and biking projects nationwide through the Transportation Alternatives Program. Even though this investment represents only a sliver of the country’s overall spending on surface transportation, it provides the financial foundation to build the nation’s trails and active transportation systems. Since the program’s inception, RTC has tracked spending through an annual Transportation Alternatives Spending Report, which outlines program investments in each state. This ongoing accounting of program implementation is an important tool in efforts to strengthen the program, improving the efficiency and efficacy of the investments made.

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Active Transportation Policy Hub


Explore RTC’s resource for the latest in state and local funding strategies for trails, biking and walking.

EXPLORE POLICY HUB