What This Bipartisan Transportation Bill Means for Your City

The National League of Cities (NLC) is pleased to support the Transportation Alternatives Enhancements Act (S. 1098) introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). This bipartisan bill supports and improves the highly successful Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Run by the U.S. Department of Transportation, TAP is a collaborative federal transportation program that leverages federal and local funds to build bikeways and sidewalks to reduce traffic congestion, provide children with safe routes to school and give communities more affordable transportation options. Multimodal and collaborative programs like TAP, which provided $850 million to recipients in 2019, are central to cities’ transportation plans for the future.

What this Bill Means For Your City

S.1098 energizes the TAP program with common sense updates, improves local control to complete projects and provides communities with project completion support. The bill:

  • Puts more dollars in the hands of local agencies by allocating funding for metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) for larger urban areas and allowing eligibility for both regional MPOs for populations less than 200,000 people and nonprofits who support these programs.
  • Provides flexibility to quickly and equitably distribute program fund. States can simply allocate all TAP funding by population, through regional and local entities, so projects can get started sooner.
  • Extends Obligation authority to MPOs with a population of 200,000 or more. In larger metropolitan areas, the MPOs can implement the project without having to wait for the state DOT.
  • Bolsters technical assistance available to all communities pursuing these federal projects and allows for states to use 5% of TAP funds to hire or contract for technical assistance to work.
  • Allows the multimodal TAP program to grow by removing an arbitrary program cap.
  • Increases matching for safety projects. 100% of costs can be covered by federal funds for eligible safety projects that meet certain criteria, giving relief to communities with safety needs.
  • Grows flexibility for matching up to 100% for some projects, as long as the total state matching ratio across the state remains 80:20. For small communities, this could help states provide lower, achievable match requirements. For larger areas, this could allow for more connectivity by increasing the effectiveness of the network.

What the Bill Champions Are Saying

  • “Local governments – planning and transportation authorities – typically understand the transit needs of their communities better than state-level or federal officials,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Wicker to empower local leaders in Maryland and nationwide with the resources to enhance their neighborhoods, improve economic development and improve quality of life and air quality.”
  • “The Transportation Alternatives Program improves public safety, quality of life, and job creation through support for non-traditional transportation projects,” Senator Wicker said. “The targeted improvements Senator Cardin and I have proposed would give greater flexibility for smaller communities to use these resources for maximum impact.”
  • “Cities, towns and villages applaud Senators Cardin and Wicker for their bipartisan leadership on S.1098, which will provide communities support to deploy more bike and pedestrian projects faster for their residents,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “The Transportation Alternatives Program will now be better prepared to offer low-cost transportation, provide new mobility options to communities of all sizes, decrease congestion on our roads and help our nation meet today’s demand for interconnectivity.”

What We Can Do To Support This Bill

As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee works to reauthorize all the transportation programs in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act this year, NLC is working with Congress to ensure that bipartisan bills like S.1098 gain traction. With common-sense changes to support localities who want to get bike and pedestrian projects done, this is another way that the federal government can be more efficient and effective in its partnership with the nation’s cities, towns and villages. City leaders, share your support for S.1098 with your Senators and help our federal partners support local authority of transportation.

Download the full version of the bill here.

Additional Supporters

  • National League of Cities
  • AARP
  • America Walks
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Planning Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals
  • Lakeshore Foundation
  • League of American Bicyclists
  • National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
  • National Association of Regional Councils
  • National Complete Streets Coalition
  • National Recreation and Park Association
  • PeopleForBikes
  • Rails to Trails Conservancy
  • Safe Kids Worldwide
  • Safe Routes to School National Partnership
  • Safe States Alliance
  • Sierra Club
  • Transportation for America
  • Trust for America’s Health
  • US Conference of Mayors
  • YMCA of the USA

brittney2_ready.jpgAbout the Author: Brittney Kohler is the program director for transportation and infrastructure at the National League of Cities.