By Charles Pekow — The nation is still waiting to get its hands on the new opportunities for bicycling in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Congress passed last November. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is still interpreting the law and putting out guidance. And Congress still hasn’t appropriated any funds for the billions of dollars allowed as the federal government was still operating under a continuing resolution in mid-February at last year’s funding levels. And state and local bicycle advocates are looking for guidance as to how to take advantage of the new money and rules that can help expand cycling and make it safer.
“We are definitely getting questions about it,” says Ken McLeod, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists. While awaiting money and federal guidance, “now is a good time to look at local transportation improvement plans. Look for bad projects; look for good projects,” he says. If you’re in an urban area, check out the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s goals. You’ll find more funding in IIJA for what’s already planned and awaiting money.
And it helps to collaborate with other interests, as much of the expanded help for bicycling fits into broader goals, such as Vision Zero and Complete Streets. “Think in terms of holistic complete streets, with biking, walking, transit,” advises Noa Banayan, director of federal affairs for People for Bikes, who was instrumental in pushing the legislation. “The cities that are going to do best probably already have these coalitions in place.” Note that electric charging stations can also support ebikes, she says.
One of the advantages of the new bill is it requires states with high levels of bike/ped traffic crashes in a given year to spend at least 15 percent of their Highway Safety Improvement Program money on projects to help such “vulnerable road users.” While FHWA hasn’t determined which states it will apply to, if history is a guide, some Mountain West states will fit the bill. Find FHWA’s latest guidance here: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/hsip/rulemaking/docs/Section148_SpecialRule_Guidance.pdf.
And since IIJA expands uses of Safe Routes to School (SRS) funding for infrastructure to get students to ride to school and high school education, it would help to coordinate with schools on infrastructure, as increased levels of funding are supposed to become available for Transportation Alternatives and other programs, McLeod notes. The SRS Partnership has issued guidance on SRS and the new law: https://www.saferoutespartnership.org/blog/new-year-new-infrastructure-law-–tips-kick-2022
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (of which I am a member) provides plenty of info on getting IIJA funding for trails at https://www.railstotrails.org/policy/trailstransform/#funding. At the site, you can also find info on getting a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant. $1.5 billion is available with an April 14 deadline. Projects are designed to improve infrastructure and have included bike trails.