It can be safely assumed residents in Northwest Indiana love their trails. Since 1990 we have grown tenfold to over 130 miles of paved, regional routes that connect a majority of our communities. How they get built, along with related facilities such as sidewalks, takes money.
No-brainer, right? However, just what money are we talking about? At NIRPC we manage a number of federal funding programs that feed directly into non-motorized facility development, as well as all other transportation modes. Over the last two decades, we have programmed over $40 million of federal funds to trails alone. These are our tax dollars at work.
Understanding the world of federal funding is complex, to say the least, with acronyms flying at you like runaway comets. So, let’s keep this simple and start at the top – with MAP-21, or the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
MAP-21 represents the most recent massive federal spending authorization usually agreed upon by Congress every six years on average. It has had different names over the years, but essentially the same goal – to provide the nation transportation infrastructure funding for all modes imaginable.
Flowing down from MAP-21 are a host of programs which support the wide variety of transportation modes in use. Some are dedicated to transit, some to roads and some to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Many programs also “cross streams” with others where similar projects are eligible for funding.
Of these there are three that offer the most funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Chief among these are the Transportation Alternatives Program, which has money dedicated to only projects that improve the non-motorized network. The other two are the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, and the Surface Transportation Program.
A majority of the CMAQ and STP funding is programmed for motorized vehicle-related projects and transit uses, but non-motorized projects, such as multi-use trails, are also eligible. CMAQ in particular invests in projects aimed at improving regional air quality, of which trails are an excellent example.
Other minor programs also exist, and for information about these, including how you can obtain a free trails map, please visit the Greenways & Blueways section at www.nirpc.org.