August & September 2012
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Long-awaited Transportation Bill Signed

The last federal transportation bill – SAFETEA-LU – was signed in 2005 and expired more than three years ago. Ten times, federal legislators gave the expired bill short extensions until July 2012, when a new bill was finally signed. The new federal transportation bill is the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 st Century Act, or MAP-21. Having the new bill removes some of the uncertainty that had made decision-making difficult for planners and elected officials.

MAP-21 is approved for 27 months and authorizes $104 billion or about $56 billion per year, about the same as the old bill accounting for inflation. Taxes on gas, diesel, and several other funding streams remain the source of funds for the new bill. As with the old bill, these funds are insufficient to cover the authorized expenses. Congress manages this deficit by transferring monies from the General Revenue Fund. Unlike the old bill, MAP-21 contains no earmarks, or projects specifically designated for funding under the law.

While funding levels remain about the same, there are several changes in the new bill.

  • There is a new emphasis on freight planning with states given incentives to incorporate freight plans into their long range plans and take other steps designed to improve the condition and performance of the national freight network.
  • The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program (TIFIA) program – a lending program – is significantly expanded.
  • Transit providers must be represented in all levels of planning.
  • The bill’s programs favor projects that have national and regional significance.
  • Agencies and communities receiving funds from MAP-21 will need to demonstrate performance-based accountability.
  • Several programs were rolled into a new category called Transportation Alternatives. These include bicycle and pedestrian planning, and the Safe Routes to School program.
TMACOG staff has reviewed the new bill and will be sharing specifics with relevant transportation committees. Overall, TMACOG and other Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in Ohio are in good shape to comply with and benefit from MAP-21. In particular, Ohio has been a leader in freight planning and had already adopted many of the new recommendations.

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