Dedicated State Funding for Bike/Ped Projects
A state transportation bill that includes major funding increases for bicycle and pedestrians, as well as transit and other important transportation programs, has had its ups and down this legislative session. A bill was introduced at the beginning of the session in both the House and the Senate that included a .75 cent sales tax increase for transit in the metro. 3%, or $9 million, would go to the Met Council to use for bike and pedestrian projects. The bill is being supported by the coalition of organizations called Transit for a Stronger Economy. They include everyone from environmental organizations, developers, to labor unions.
Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities Metro, has had multiple revenue sources coming into the region to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects. Under the federal SAFETEA-LU transportation there were multiple federal programs that paid for a significant amount of these projects that are no longer included in the new federal transportation funding bill, MAP-21.
MAP-21 eliminates multiple non-motorized transportation programs including Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and recreational trails. A new program was created, Transportation Alternatives (TA), to allocate money for the states to use but it no longer designates where the money should be spent. More money will be designated to local MPO’s to distribute for these projects and the states will be left with a smaller pool of money to spend statewide on a much broader category of transportation than before. MnDOT is still in the process of determining how to best spend the TAP funds for the next 2 years.
Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP)
Minneapolis was one of four pilot cities awarded $21 million from the federal government as part of SAFETEA-LU in 2005. This funding which has been awarded and is nearing the end was managed by Transit for Livable Communities, and was spent not just in the awarded city but throughout the metro. Many (or even most) of the bike improvements made between 2005 and 2012 included some use of this funding. Nice Ride is one project that benefited greatly from funding from this program but it’s also responsible for many of the bicycle facilities added in Minneapolis and surrounding areas over the past few years.
Minnesota is not the only state that will have challenges funding bicycle and pedestrian projects without the dedicated funding found in SAFETEA-LU. In Oregon similar legislation exists to what is being advocated here in Minnesota but they’re adding to it by designating funding. ConnectOregon Plus (ConnectOregon is an existing multimodal funding program) is a program that is currently being discussed. This would be a dedicated fund for bike/ped projects; as well as air, marine, and freight; that would come from the state’s lottery fund. Oregon, a state known for bicycling, has had policy for state spending on non-motorized transportation for many years, but never before has it had the funding to back it up.
The Future of Bike/Ped Funding
Over the next few weeks as the session wraps up in both Oregon and Minnesota, there should be a clearer picture of how much dedicated funding will go to bike and pedestrian funding from the state. It will be interesting to see what happens this year and in the future as MAP-21 is replaced at the federal level. Many believe that bicycle and pedestrian spending is a local issue and it should not be funded by the federal government. Dedicated state funding could be the turning point in how all future bike/ped projects are funded.