Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) is the newly- passed Federal Transportation Bill, signed into law last month. This bipartisan piece of legislation was passed under a quickly-approaching deadline due to the expiring former bill: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The new bill is an attempt by Congress to reduce federal spending, as MAP-21 is estimated to cut costs by $16.3 billion over the next ten years. The Act included part of the America Fast Forward program initiated by Mayor Villaraigosa in an effort to accelerate thirty years of infrastructure projects into a ten-year period. Senator Boxer spearheaded the addition of this component of the bill. Federal funding will be provided via the Transportation Infrastructure Financial and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to channel funds toward public transit options, in particular light rail and subway lines. The inclusion of America Fast Forward will help provide both significant economic and environmental benefits.
Despite the praises accumulated for attempting to cut federal expenditures and improving the financing options for transit development, many have deemed MAP-21 a step backwards in transportation policy for bicyclists and pedestrians. Even Ray LaHood, the US Secretary of Transportation, has called this new bill “highway-centric.” Partisan politics had a big factor in the final formation of the bill, as portions of the Act regarding environmental protection and bicycle safety were removed via a mutually null-ing trade with Republicans, who had wanted the Keystone XL oil pipeline approved via the bill.
What the new bill means for bike projects: MAP-21 consolidated several transportation programs not related to motorized travel, such as Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trails, and Transportation Enhancements into one collective body, entitled “Transportation Alternatives.” Not only do these sub-programs lose all dedicated federal funding to their respective budgets, but the aggregate budget for these newly-fused programs has been cut by one third, from $1.2 billion to $800 million. Unfortunately, even these remaining federal funds still available for bicycle and pedestrian-friendly projects can be siphoned away further. Where SAFETEA-LU permitted state-run agencies to reallocate 10 to 15 percent of the funds in these programs (excluding SRTS dollars) to other transportation projects, MAP-21 now allows up to 50 percent of these funds to be re-appropriated without approval. This means bicycle and pedestrian funding is looking at a potential 66 percent budget cut from last fiscal year, as up to $400 million of the new budget could be reassigned to projects unrelated or possibly detrimental to bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure and safety without explanation.
What this means for bicyclists in LA: A tightened federal budget for bike projects means heightened competition for still existing funds and grant opportunities. Moreover, some bikeway projects may be delayed or cancelled if federal funding is transferred by state authorities. In order to maintain bikeway project goals, local governments will turn more of their focus to alternative funding possibilities, especially through public private partnerships and local organizations.
Los Angeles, though, happens to be in a more fortunate situation than other large cities around the country, thanks to a mayor who has demonstrated his support for bicycling, and a council body that approved dedicating a portion of local return Measure R funds to bicycling and pedestrian projects. Despite this support, however, these efforts won’t be enough to reach the ambitious goals of the Bicycle Plan without the ongoing support and involvement of citizens working to ensure bicycling and pedestrian funding is not reallocated at the state level.
MAP-21 takes effect on October 1, 2012 and expires October 2014, giving us 27 months to make the best of diminished funding opportunities until a new transportation bill is in place. Until that time, LADOT will continue striving to make the city more bikeable; and, with the support of bicyclists and other passionate Angelenos, we will be able to make the best of this funding situation and continue to give Angelenos improved transportation options.
For more information on MAP-21: You can read the responses to the Act by various organizations, including: America Bikes; American Planning Association; League of American Bicyclists; National Transportation Enhancements; Transportation for America; and USDOT Federal Transit Administration.
You can also view video and slides from an informational webinar hosted by Advocacy Advance, entitled “What Does MAP-21 do for Bicycling and Walking.” This free online seminar was originally held on Monday, August 13th.