|Surface Transportation Law Signed|
Surface Transportation Law Signed
On July 6, President Obama signed the transportation reauthorization bill that was recently passed by the House and Senate on June 29. The measure extends current transportation law until September 30, 2012, and establishes new law from October 1, 2012, until September 30, 2014. The new law, known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), reauthorizes federal highway, transit, and other surface transportation programs at current funding levels with slight increases for inflation.
The new law preserves the Transportation Enhancements (TE) Program under the Surface Transportation Program but gives states greater leeway to use TE funding for other purposes. In the days leading up to final passage, rumors swirled that bicycle and pedestrian programs were eliminated from the bill. ASLA responded by urging many California-based landscape architecture firms to contact Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), the chair of the transportation negotiations, to reiterate the importance of bike/ped programs in creating jobs and economic growth for landscape architects and California communities.
Ultimately, most bike/ped programs will continue but will be significantly scaled back from current law. In particular, the TE program will continue but has been renamed "Transportation Alternatives" (TA), with the current 12 eligible activities categories consolidated into six categories. The bill eliminates the bike/ped safety and education programs, transportation museums, and the acquisition of scenic and historic easements categories. The "Scenic Beautification" category has been renamed "Vegetation Management Practices" and has been consolidated under the "Community Improvement" category. States will now have more latitude in spending TA dollars. Under the bill, states will suballocate 50 percent of their TA funds to metropolitan planning organizations and local communities to run a grant program to distribute funds for projects. States could use the remaining 50 percent for TA projects or could spend these dollars on other transportation priorities.