Navigating MAP-21: Getting Ready to Compete
With barely a month until the start of the new transportation law, MAP-21, it's time to get into the real nitty-gritty: How can you make sure the money from MAP-21 gets spent on bicycling projects in your community?
First: Everything starts with a list of great bike projects in an approved local or regional plan -- chances are you already have such a list in your community in a specific bike plan or comprehensive plan. MAP-21 requires competitive grant programs for the Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds, and the moment the grant process is announced in your community, you should be helping your community to apply.
Second: Cyclists have got to be involved in the grant-making process -- and that means you! These are new grant programs so that means there are new grant criteria to be written, new committees created to select projects, and potentially lots of new applicants competing for the funds. The more you can be involved in setting the ground rules for these programs, the more success cycling is likely to have.
If you live in a large urban area that is part of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) with more than 200,000 residents, your MPO will run its own grant program to allocate a portion of the TA funds. In smaller metropolitan areas, the grants will be administered by the state DOT -- but your MPO will still have a strong voice in the process. The League and our America Bikes coalition partners are working with a task force of MPO staff and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make sure there are training courses, guidance, and plenty of information to help bicyclists navigate this process.
Speaking up to your state DOT is critical. State DOTs control half the TA money directly -- and they spend the portion of TA funds that are for rural ares (outside the MPOs). So states control much more than half the money.
Make no mistake: Getting involved in the process pays off. Bicycle Colorado reports that the state is committed to its approved fiscal year 2013 transportation budget, created under SAFETEA-LU policies, to avoid any major shifts. This includes a call for Safe Routes to School projects.
Advocates in Illinois didn't waste any time, either. President Obama hadn't even signed the new federal transportation law yet -- and the League of Illinois Bicyclists and Active Transportation Alliance had already written a letter to the secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation about the future of bicycle funding. They asked for a meeting -- and got it. They asked the DOT to fully utilize funding for biking and walking under the new TA program -- and signs are good that Illinois will do just that. But their campaign is far from over.
Learn more about successful advocacy approaches in both Illinois and Wyoming on the next Navigating MAP-21 webinar: Winning Bike Funding under Transportation Alternatives on Sept 5 from 2 to 3 p.m. EASTERN. Register here.