Rails-to-Trails Calls on Congress to Support New and Potentially Transformative ATIIP Funding Program

Posted 07/29/22 by Patrick Wojahn in Policy

Photo courtesy Getty Images

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its latest spending bill for the 2023 fiscal year (FY), which included $100 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, or ATIIP—a critical step toward funding the program in the final spending bill for next year. If funded, the ATIIP—authorized in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was signed into law in November 2021—would provide direct, competitive grants to communities around the country for the planning and construction of safe, connected trail and active transportation networks.

Last week, the Senate Democrats also included funding for the program in their proposed bill. While this bill will likely not move forward in its current form, the Senate majority has laid down their position. Unfortunately, the bill only includes $25 million for FY 2023, which would only scratch the surface in terms of meeting the demand for connected trail networks and safe walking and bicycling facilities.

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Why ATIIP Is Critical

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been advocating for the ATIIP for years, and thanks to your support and engagement, Congress continues to take steps toward making the program a reality after including it in the infrastructure bill last year.

The impact of ATIIP would be transformative for our nation’s transportation system, supporting infrastructure that makes it easier and safer for people to walk and bike to daily destinations.

As we so learned after Congress created the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program in 2005—investing in the creation of active transportation networks in four U.S. communities—dedicated funding for trails and active transportation matters. Upon conclusion of the pilot program, it was found that this investment of $25 million per community—including Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin—led to 85 million miles of driving averted, a 48.3% increase in bicycling and 22.8% increase in walking, with further improvements in bike and pedestrian safety and reduced health-care spending. Federal investment in these networks is critical, and ATIIP could enable communities around the country to achieve similar results.

While the $100 million proposed by the House is a good start for ATIIP and would enable the Biden administration to get the program off the ground, this amount would not come close to meeting the high demand for these types of grants.

Communities across the United States are in need of billions of dollars to complete the networks they already have planned. For example, the Capital Trails Network, a large regional network in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that will one day connect 800 miles of trails, is projected to cost over $1 billion.

RTC has asked for Congress to provide the full $500 million in funding that was originally included in the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act (S.684/H.R.2991) in 2021, which is the minimum needed to meet the high demand among communities across the country for this investment.

What Now?

While the proposed funding for the ATIIP in both the appropriations bill that passed the House of Representatives last month and the draft Senate bill were critical steps forward, the funding for next year still has a long way to go before it reaches the President’s desk, and cuts to the total amounts are all but certain.

RTC advocacy is now focused on shoring up bipartisan support for the program to ensure that, at minimum, some funding is included for the program so that it can get up and running, and to continue to increase the resources available for the program. We will continue to advocate for this vital funding.

Local voices are critical to secure support from members of Congress for programs like the ATIIP, and we will be calling on trail advocates everywhere to speak up and show their representatives at the capitol how urgent this investment is and what impact it could have in communities nationwide.

Tell Your Senators to Support Connected Communities

Write your senators today and urge them to support full funding for ATIIP to create safe, connected communities across the country. Stay tuned for more news and information about how you can help!

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