Posts Tagged ‘Transportation Enhancements’

Possible changes for Michigan road funding

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Here are just three potential changes which could greatly affect road funding — including bike funding — throughout Michigan.

The Good

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Governor Rick Synder will call for changes to how Michigan collects tax revenues on motor vehicle fuel. Rather than collect a fixed amount per gallon sold at the pump, he is proposing a percent rate on the wholesale fuel cost. While it won’t raise taxes initially, the total taxes collected will increase with inflation and fuel price increases.

It makes sense to us.

Getting the state legislature to increase the fuel tax, something that hasn’t happened in 14 years, is difficult. The Governor’s proposal removes the need to vote on any tax increases.

The Bad

According to the Spinal Column newspaper, State Senator Howard Walker, a Republican from Traverse City, also wants to eliminate fuel taxes at the pump. He wants to replace the lost tax funding by raising the state sales tax by 1%.

That’s right. Rather than have motorists pay for roads, everyone would.

Those who drive more, say perhaps people in northern parts of the state, would pay less for their roads while those who drive less or not at all would pick up the tab. This proposal would subsidize driving more than we already do.

According to a recent national study, only 51% of road costs are paid by road users. This drop that percentage further with the difference coming from general tax sources.

The Ugly

The Washington Post has this article outlining the very real possibility that Transportation Enhancement funding could be stripped from the next federal transportation bill — or at least made optional at the state level. Enhancements represents about 2% of the total transportation bill.

Losing Transportation Enhancement funding would be devastating to bike facilities development in Michigan and across the U.S..

This is a primary source of funding for on-road improvements, like the 16 miles of new bike lanes in Southwest Detroit. This funding also supports trail development such as the Detroit RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut. And finally, it’s also used for streetscaping which improves walkability while often providing bike parking.

While cyclists and others have banded together to fight off prior attacks on this funding, times are different.

Please contact your Congressperson to let them know we cannot lose Transportation Enhancements.

 

Bike transportation funding: Avoiding a scare?

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Despite the recent buzz about Governor Rick Snyder’s new state budget, it probably won’t greatly affect bike projects in Michigan. In Michigan, bike infrastructure funding mostly comes through the state law (called Act 51) and the federal transportation bill. It is the latter that caused more concern this week.

On Sunday night, we received the following heads-up from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

Though we do not know details yet, we anticipate a congressional amendment that could do away with or hobble programs like Transportation Enhancements (the nation’s largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling), Recreational Trails Program and Safe Routes to School. Therefore, we are working with many other organizations to defeat such a damaging amendment.

Transportation Enhancements are perhaps the number one source of on-road and trail infrastructure funding. (The Recreation Trails Program funds trails, but in Michigan, it is focused nearly exclusively on DNR trails, including a mix of motorized and non-motorized.)

So it was welcoming news to read today that those cuts did not happen. Again, from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

This is a heartening development, as our programs have been fiercely targeted in the past and many worthy programs are on the chopping block. We believe these programs were spared because of the groundwork you helped to lay over the past years to foster appreciation of trail, walking and bicycling investments. Thank you so much for your strong trail and active transportation advocacy!

The TIGER, Community Development Block grant, and Americorp programs are still at risk in House. Those funds could also pay for trails and trail workers.

Meanwhile the Whitehouse has released their proposed budget with a fact sheet specific to transportation. Perhaps of most interest to cyclists is the discussion on livability and sustainability.

Helps Communities to Become More Livable and Sustainable. Fostering livable communities—places where coordinated transportation, housing, and commercial development gives people access to affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation—is a transformational policy shift.  The Administration’s reauthorization proposal adopts a multi-pronged approach to help communities achieve this goal.  For example, in the Federal Highway Administration, the Administration proposes a new livability grant program ($4.1 billion in 2012 and $28 billion over six years) for projects like multi-modal transportation hubs (where different forms of transportation converge) and streets that accommodate pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access.  The proposal also seeks to harmonize State and local planning requirements and facilitate more cooperation—and includes competitive grant funding ($200 million in 2012 and $1.2 billion over six years) to improve those entities’ ability to deliver sound, data-driven, and collaboratively-developed transportation plans.  The Budget also includes $119 billion for transit programs over six-years, more than doubling the commitment to transit in the prior reauthorization for both existing capacity and capacity expansion.  This unprecedented increase for buses, subways, and other systems of public transportation will help improve and expand travel options and help make our communities more livable.

If the Whitehouse could get this livability grant program through Congress, there is little doubt Detroit has a number of planning efforts that could take advantage of it.

Detroit RiverWalk lands a Transportation Enhancement grant

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Senators Levin and Stabenow escort Transportation Secretary LaHood on the RiverWalk

That short gravel section of the RiverWalk just west of the Ren Cen may soon be history. MDOT has awarded construction funding to help get it built.

The Detroit Wayne County Port Authority is constructing a public dock and terminal in downtown Detroit, between the Renaissance Center and Hart Plaza. The Port Authority also will construct a portion of the Detroit Riverwalk, directly in front of the terminal building. The project will provide various amenities, including ornamental railings, site furnishings and a security system. The project cost is $318,739, including $159,370 in federal TE funds and $159,370 in local match from the Port Authority.

The city of Ann Arbor also received funding that will “construct bike lanes and sidewalks on the East Stadium Boulevard bridges that cross over South State Street and the adjacent Ann Arbor Railroad track.”

MDOT’s press release also provided more details on this federal funding source called Transportation Enhancements (TE).

Under federal law, 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds are set aside for TE projects. Administered by MDOT, the grants enable communities to invest in projects such as streetscapes and nonmotorized trails. TE funds provide a maximum of 80 percent of the money required for each project, with the remainder coming from state and local government and the private sector.

This funding source is absolutely critical to getting bike projects on the ground in Metro Detroit and across the U.S.  Did the recent election results put this funding at risk? Bike-friendly Congressman Oberstar is no longer calling the shots, Mica is.

So last week, BikePortland asked Kevin Mills, Vice President of Policy for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, “Is the Transportation Enhancements program in jeopardy?” Mills answered:

“The Bureau of National Affairs recently reported that Rep. Mica may take transportation funding ‘back to basics’ and that Transportation Enhancements may be among the programs cut. However, Mr. Mica has vocal constituents and political allies back home for whom trail systems and bicycling are high priorities. He has expressed support for trails and participated in ribbon cuttings on numerous occasions, and he supports robust transportation spending overall. If there is an attack, it is likely to stem from House leaders directing committee chairs to push for aggressive cuts in programs that they do not perceive as core federal functions.”

We hope any attempt to take away Enhancements is met with a very enthusiastic response from cyclists. Losing this funding source would devastate many Detroit bike projects that are planned for the near future.

MDOT announces Transportation Enhancement grants

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

MDOT recently announced another round of Transportation Enhancement grants. This funding comes from the federal transportation bill and is the major funding source for bike projects in Michigan.

There are a couple bike-related local projects receiving this funding.

The first is for a Anthony Wayne Drive, which is really a continuation of Second and Third Streets through the Wayne State University campus in Detroit. This street of road will be made into a Complete Street, including more bike lanes. These bike lanes will connect with those planned by the New Center Council on Second Avenue to the north and those planned by the city to the south.

The city of Detroit, in partnership with Wayne State University, will construct a streetscape project on Anthony Wayne Drive, from Warren Avenue to Palmer Street. The project will include sidewalks that are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant with the, street lighting, trees, bike lanes, benches and trash receptacles. These enhancements will improve sidewalk connectivity and promote safety, security and a “green” environment. The project also will create a pedestrian-friendly environment encouraging a walkable community. The project cost is $704,855, including $563,884 in federal funds and $140,971 in local match from Wayne State University.

The second project is less exciting from a cycling perspective, though it does include bike racks.

The village of Lake Orion and Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority will develop a project that will create a sense of arrival and enhance the historic nature of a unique downtown district. The project area includes Broadway Street, from M-24 to Shadboldt, and Flint Street, from Lapeer to Anderson. Project elements include replacing streetlight globes and installing brick pavers, benches, bike racks, trees and tree grates. The project cost is $684,535, including $444,948 in federal TE funds and $239,587 in match from the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.

MDOT Transportation Enhancements

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

First the good news. MDOT recently made the following Transportation Enhancement (TE) awards that should improve bicycling in Metro Detroit.

From MDOT’s press release:

Macomb County

The city of Utica will construct a nonmotorized bridge over the Clinton River to provide accessibility and connectivity to the city of Utica’s portion of the bike trail that will connect the Huron Clinton Metroparks at Metro Beach and Stoney Creek. The project is part of the Macomb County Bike/Hike Master Plan and will allow bicyclists to connect to the Macomb Orchard Trail as well as the Clinton River Trail in Oakland County. The project cost is $452,525, including $303,192 in federal TE funds and $149,333 in matching funds from the city.

Macomb, Oakland, Wayne counties

SMART, in coordination with its community partners, will purchase and install bike racks at several locations in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The intent is to provide communities with secure bike racks at locations away from bus routes for the convenience of SMART riders who also ride bikes. The project cost is $20,016, including $16,013 in federal TE funds and $4,003 in matching funds from SMART.

Clawson is also getting bike racks installed along 14 Mile Road. Unfortunately they only seem willing to make mild improvements to walkability and even milder ones for bike-ability. Their conceptual plans for their Main Street road diet included bike lanes. Their final plans and implementation did not.

MDOT Five-year plan

MDOT recently released their five-year spending plan. With reduced revenue from people driving less, Michigan cannot provide the full 20% match for federal transportation funding.

This does affect the Transportation Enhancements program. Normally MDOT would provide $12 million in match for TE projects on their roads. That may be reduced to $1 million per year, which means MDOT will undertake fewer TE projects like paved shoulders, bike lanes, and streetscaping on MDOT state trunklines.

However, it also means that local governments will received more TE funding since they provide the match and not MDOT.

It’s also worth highlight this language within MDOT’s plan. This provides useful quote for cycling advocates in Michigan.

Pedestrian and bicycle transportation are on the rise due to increased fuel costs. Injury and fatality statistics are humbling reminders of the importance to design and build safe facilities for multiple modes of transportation and of the importance of education and enforcement.

It may be surprising to some that in Michigan, one pedestrian is injured every three hours and 59 minutes and one bicyclist is injured every five hours and 13 minutes.

In addition, in 2006, 17.9 percent of the 1,002 traffic fatalities in Michigan were bicyclists or pedestrians, whereas nationally, 11.6 percent of the 42,642 traffic fatalities were bicyclists or pedestrians. A reduced [Transportation Enhancements] program would severely jeopardize MDOT’s ability to provide safer pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

This does raise one question.

If 17.9% of road fatalities are non-motorized users, why did the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning only allocate 0.36% for non-motorized safety under the State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program in 2009?