California Ups the Ante With Billion-Dollar Active Transportation Plan

Posted 06/05/17 by Laura Cohen, Andrew Dupuy in Policy

Napa Valley Vine Trail in California | Photo courtesy

On the tail of a historic three-year funding ride for biking and walking projects, California upped the ante this spring by announcing a $1 billion increase to its innovative Active Transportation Program (ATP) over the next decade.

Since its inception, the California ATP has provided nearly $981 million in state funding to help make communities more bikeable and walkable—and the recent billion-dollar investment ($100 million per year for 10 years) ensures the continuation of this incredible progress long term.

2014–2017 Recap: Outset of Program Has Meant Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Trails

The California Legislature launched the ATP in 2014—whereby it consolidated state and federal funds for active transportation under one roof to: increase biking and walking in California; create safer mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians while improving public health—especially in underserved and disadvantaged communities; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

Of the nearly $1 billion provided for active transportation projects so far, 32 percent—or more than $300 million—has gone to trail projects (or projects including Class IV bikeways, sometimes known as cycle tracks), including $97 million and $133 million respectively in the first two funding cycles and $83 million in trail projects in the most recent funding cycle, announced this past winter.

Creating Connections and Positive Community Impacts

The impact and reach of the ATP cuts across rural, suburban and urban landscapes in California—where communities are dedicated to encouraging physical activity and healthier lifestyles and creating social equity to connect disadvantaged neighborhoods to schools, jobs, shopping and healthy recreation.

A residential section of the Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail route in California | Photo courtesy Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail

For example, the planned, 31-mile Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail will connect more than 50 percent of the county’s population to 92 parks and 44 schools when complete. The trail will also help form the main spine of the 50-mile Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail network, connecting the area’s 3 million annual visitors to some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California.

The Mather Rails-to-Trails Project in the City of Rancho Cordova is a Class I multiuse trail being built alongside a Union Pacific spur between the Sacramento Regional Transit Mather/Mills Light Rail Station and the Mather Field Airport. The ATP-funded trail will enhance mobility in this high-transit area for people traveling to the rail station, the Sacramento Veteran’s Administration Hospital, nearby businesses and residential areas—and will eliminate a barrier to walking and biking by providing a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility across busy U.S. Route 50.

ATP funds are also helping to close critical gaps in the 66-mile Orange County Loop, a regional trail system that makes it possible for residents to walk and bike to some of California’s most scenic beaches and destinations, and are supporting smaller projects such as the City of Roseville's 4.25-mile Dry Creek Greenway, which will serve as valued transportation and recreational assets for local residents.

RELATED: Good Things in Threes: Cycle 3 of California AT Program Means $84 million for Trails

Billion-Dollar Investment Part of Controversial Transportation Gas Tax Increase

The recent billion-dollar investment announced by California for ATP is part of a controversial multimodal funding package, Senate Bill 1, aimed at increasing transportation revenue in the state. While there were many laudable provisions of the billincluding the $100 million annual increase in ATP, and funding for transit and transportation planning, made possible by the persistent work of a broad coalition, including RTC—a late compromise was included in the bill that eases restrictions on trucking emissions that could result in negative environmental and health impacts in disadvantaged communities located near ports and trucking routes.

While RTC is disappointed in this inclusion and will remain active in advocating for cleaner transportation policies in the state, we commend our dedicated partners in California for this huge win for biking and walking. Special commendation goes out to the California Active Transportation Leadership coalition, a group of 32 organizations—representing the walking, biking, public transit, public health, social equity and environmental communities—whose efforts were critical to the billion-dollar increase.

We are excited to be part of the growing momentum in California to create healthy, sustainable communities by providing clean, active transportation options across the state.

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