Diving Into MAP-21: An Education Resource for Planners and Advocates

Posted 05/29/13 by Kevin Mills in Policy

In 2012, the United States Congress adopted a new bill to govern surface transportation programs through September 2014. That bill, referred to now as MAP-21, provides opportunities for creative communities to develop good networks of trails and active transportation facilities.

But the new bill came with some significant changes, and transportation planners and advocates are still coming to grips with exactly what the new bill means for local efforts to build and maintain active transportation systems such as trails, sidewalks and bike paths.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is leading the effort to provide education and resources related to MAP-21. In this blog series, we demonstrate how communities can leverage the programs funded by MAP-21.

In this first piece, we examine the Surface Transportation Program, or STP.

One hallmark of MAP-21 is the consolidation of programs coupled with broad eligibility criteria for projects. The STP is one of the most flexible programs. It funds projects on federal-aid highways as well as local roads. It is used for everything from congestion relief to pedestrian safety, and is available to communities of all sizes.

STP is one of the largest funding sources. It is usually available on at least a yearly-cycle. All this flexibility makes it one of the best sources of support. STP is also a very popular program for which there is a lot of competition.

Case Study: The North Shore Council of Mayors distributes STP funding in the northern suburbs of Chicago. In 2012, the council adopted new funding criteria that explicitly prioritized Complete Streets and regionally-significant multi-modal corridor projects. It also rewarded communities for demonstrating collaboration amongst government agencies. These criteria made it significantly easier for applicants to propose a wide variety of bicycle, pedestrian and trail projects. For more information about this project, visit www.nwmc-cog.org/Transportation/North-Shore-Council-of-Mayors.aspx.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy helps communities develop interconnected networks of trails and active transportation facilities. Local governments can use STP funds to fill in the gaps in their networks. You can implement a sidewalk prioritization plan, and you can advance the network in your bike plan. You can also make better connections to regional trail systems. We recommend you use STP for what it is best - flexible funding for current critical needs.

Do you have a success story involving STP funds? Let us know. Do you need help identifying the best funding sources for your project? Get in touch with the RTC office near you. 

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