Earlier this summer, we alerted our members to the potential major loss of funding for bike projects and programs posed by a new round of “rescissions” – the process by which states are required to return unspent Federal funds to Washington. In this instance, the Federal Highway Administration was rescinding $2.2 billion from state Departments of Transportation to help fund the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. Some funding sources were excluded from the rescission, but no requirement was included for states to rescind funds proportionally across funding programs. This means that funding available to bicycle and pedestrian projects from sources such as Transportation Enhancements (TE), Recreational Trails, and the Congestion and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, which many state DOTs do not spend as promptly as some other programs, were vulnerable to being disproportionately targeted.
In fact, in many states, this is exactly what happened. CMAQ, an important source of bicycle and pedestrian funding (see our Advocacy Advance report), was hit hard: states rescinded $388 million from CMAQ. One hundred and sixteen million dollars are now gone from statewide planning and research.
One quarter of the rescissions – over half a billion dollars – came from the TE program. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has identified 28 states that rescinded way more than a fair and proportional amount from Transportation Enhancements: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. If you live in these states, you can send an alert to your governor asking that TE is spent quickly and not unfairly rescinded in the future. Some states are really dramatic. All of Nebraska’s rescissions came from TE. So did 78 percent of Texas’ and 54% of Arkansas’. Stunningly, the cuts in Texas were in addition to $300 million returned in a recent previous rescission.
On the other hand, nine states and the District of Columbia did not rescind any funds from TE: Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. This shows the impact that advocates can have. For example, after the last round of rescission, Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) members sent almost 700 emails to the DOT director to express displeasure with bike/ped rescissions. This time DC was among those that rescinded nothing for TE. Thank you also to everyone who sent out a League alert.
The only way to avoid these losses in the future is to make our voices heard and urge the DOTs to spend money on biking and walking as aggressively as they spend on highways. See our reports on rescissions, CMAQ and HSIP for advice on how to do that.
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.