OK, truth: Raise your hand if you find federal transportation legislation intimidating and incomprehensible.
I thought so. Me too.
The problem, as you know, is that it’s enormously important that advocates not only understand the new transportation law, MAP-21, but that they understand it in granular detail so they can find the small opportunities buried in a depressingly large mass of disappointment.
So a big thank-you goes out to the folks at Transportation for America, who just released exactly the resource advocates need: a guide to the law called “Making the Most of MAP-21.”
In addition to providing a basic outline of the law and its relevant provisions (and omissions), the document contains some excellent how-to’s and talking points for advocates and project sponsors trying to squeeze funding for sustainable transportation projects out of programs biased heavily toward auto-oriented infrastructure. Here are a few of the excellent ideas that stand out:
Ask states to flex highway funds for bridge repair. One major hidden peril of MAP-21 is that it transferred the responsibility of repairing 460,000 bridges, which aren’t on the National Highway System (NHS), to the overburdened Surface Transportation Program, without adding any money for it. In fact, STP has $5 billion of new responsibilities under MAP-21 and only $1 billion of new money.
Luckily, there’s a solution: States can flex up to half of their National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) funds, normally earmarked for NHS projects, to other uses. After all, NHS gets a disproportionate share of funding: “Although the NHS represents only five percent of all American roads, fully 58 percent of the highway program is committed to its upkeep,” the report says.