Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Bicycling

More States Are Looting Federal Funds for Walking and Biking

12:26 PM EST on January 6, 2017

States are diverting their share of federal funding intended for walking and biking projects, and spending it on roads.

Every year the federal government disperses a sliver of its transportation funds -- about $800 million, or less than 2 percent of the total -- to states expressly to support walking and biking. The states then distribute the funding to cities and towns to spend on specific projects and programs.

But there's a loophole, created at the insistence of congressional Republicans, that allows states to divert up to half the funding from this program, known as Transportation Alternatives, to car infrastructure. And a growing number of states are opting to take Transportation Alternatives money and spend it on roads, says Margo Pedroso of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Some states -- including Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia -- have always diverted the maximum. But the majority have recognized the value of walking and biking and used most or all of their Transportation Alternatives money for its intended purpose. Now that shows signs of changing.

In the third quarter of 2016, ten states diverted TA funds for the first time: New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. New York has transferred $37 million out of the program; Maryland, $11 million; New Jersey, $7 million.

Even though Transportation Alternatives funding is small compared to the tens of billions of dollars in annual federal road funding, it can go a long way for cost-effective bike and pedestrian projects. In the last four years, Alabama has received $61 million for biking and walking projects thanks to the Transportation Alternatives program. "That’s a lot of money for Alabama for walking and biking," said Pedroso.

TA funding allowed the town of Prattville, Alabama, to build sidewalks around Prattville Elementary, a school in a low-income area, so children could safely walk to school. It also provided a grant to complete the Eastern Shore Trail in Baldwin County. Shifting this money around can doom or delay walking or biking infrastructure.

In some cases, there may be a reasonable explanation. Ohio, for example, transfers 10 percent of its funds every year to a separate program thats allow smaller metro regions to compete for the funding. Nevertheless, says Pedroso, the recent shift is alarming.

"I think it’s important for the people in the states being affected to contact the DOT and find out what’s going on," she said.

Advocates in some states have successfully fought attempts to loot TA funds. Pedroso says motivated New Jersey advocates were able to convince the state DOT to reverse its decision to divert money.

Below is a chart of all the states that have diverted TA money since the loophole took effect in 2013. If you want to get a clear picture of what your state is doing with these funds, you can email Pedroso at margo [at] saferoutespartnership [dot] org.

Source: Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Source: Safe Routes to School National Partnership
false

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Activists Renew Push For Redesign of Fourth Ave. in Bay Ridge

But where is Council Member Justin Brannan when cyclists and pedestrians need him? He's been AWOL on this issue.

February 26, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: Flaco, We Hardly Knew Ye Edition

The only story that anyone wanted to talk about was the death of Flaco the owl, but there was plenty of other news.

February 26, 2024

DOT Spins Bus- and Bike-Lane Failure as ‘Streets Plan’ Success

The agency quietly released its required status report on the Streets Plan, which shows massive shortcomings that DOT downplayed.

February 26, 2024

Greenpoint Woman Dies from Injuries Sustained in Crash

The driver's RAM truck had been nabbed by city speed cameras 26 times since 2018, including nine times last year.

February 25, 2024

Congestion Pricing Opponents Are Blocking Disabled Access to Mass Transit, Politicians Charge

Just as the MTA begins speeding up new elevator construction, congestion pricing opponents are poised to stop it.

February 23, 2024
See all posts