Federal funds have played a key role in building many trails across the country, and as an advocate for these places, RTC continues to keep a close eye on federal programs with its annual Transportation Enhancements and Alternatives Spending Report.
The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)—known as Transportation Enhancements (TE) until 2012—is the largest federal source of funding for walking and biking projects and has helped to build thousands of trails across America since 1991.
TAP, which lived within the federal transportation bill, remained in effect until the end of fiscal year (FY) 2015. A new bill signed into law on Dec. 4, 2015, makes changes to the TAP program going forward, but for now, RTC’s latest spending report is a look back at how TAP funding was spent—or not spent—during 2015.
In 2015, Congress apportioned $738.3 million to the states under TAP—the same amount as the previous year—for transportation projects like rail-trail conversions, sidewalks, biking facilities, historic preservation of transportation facilities and more, as well as for projects eligible under two other federal programs: the Recreational Trails Program and the Safe Routes to School Program.
The Transportation Enhancements and Alternatives Spending Report is published every year by the Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (TrADE @ RTC). The spending report breaks out obligation rates (the percentage of TE/TAP dollars firmly committed to specified projects) by state and analyzes what types of projects received funding. The report also provides transparency and valuable information for transportation officials, legislators and citizens to see how TAP funding was spent.
“Management and use of these funds by states is evolving,” says Kevin Mills, senior vice president of policy at RTC. “TAP continues to improve America’s transportation system for a very modest investment. Demand is sky high for trails, walking and biking infrastructure, and now more than 90 percent of TAP is used to support these needs. But, with a rise in transfers out of the program in some states [for projects not consistent with the purposes of TAP], it will be critical to track trends in TAP moving forward.”
Here are a few highlights from RTC’s findings this year:
- Transfers of funding out of TE and TA continue to rise. Transfers during FY 2015 represent 31 percent of all transferred funds since 1993—double the percentage from FY14.
- Bicycle and pedestrian facilities, safe routes to school infrastructure projects and rail-trails combined make up 91.2 percent of all TA projects, continuing a trend observed last year.
- States are spending down their unobligated TE balances; the amount of unobligated TE is at a low, and more projects are being funded.
- Four states—Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma and South Dakota—have still not obligated any of their Transportation Alternatives funding since TA apportionments began.
To see how state funding compares, download the full report on the TrADE website.
The mission of the Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (TrADE @ RTC) is to track Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) implementation. TrADE provides a web-accessible database and annual report on national and state-by-state funding and expenditures. Through TrADE, RTC’s goal is to make TAP the most accountable and transparent transportation funding source in the United States. Visit the TrADE website to access our data and publications.