By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
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January 31 is the Metropolitan Council’s application deadline for $6 million in funding for bike infrastructure, sidewalks, traffic calming, safe routes for people with disabilities, and other projects under the federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that it administers. The money is for capital projects in the seven-county metro area for construction in 2017. The maximum grant award for any one project is $1 million. Grants are available to local and tribal governments, regional transportation authorities, transit and natural resource/public land agencies, schools and school districts, local education agencies, and other units of government overseeing transportation or recreational trails.
The Met. Council has been funding these types of projects for over 20 years, but this is the first process under the renamed and consolidated federal program as part of the law, MAP-21, passed by Congress in 2012. Despite increasing demand for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, Congress reduced the amount available for this vital program by 30 percent.
To give you an idea of what was funded in the last round, here are four of the eight projects for 2016:
• A bike/ped trail within Crystal and New Hope being developed by Three Rivers Park District
• A bicycle and pedestrian trail being developed by the City of Hastings
• A complete streets reconstruction of 6th Avenue North in Minneapolis
• A roadside parking area connecting to a trail in Ramsey
Once the Metropolitan Council adopts Thrive MSP 2014, the region’s new development plan, the Council will revisit the focus of the Transportation Alternative Program as well as its other federal transportation funding programs.
Coming off the lessons learned from Bike Walk Twin Cities, the federal program that TLC has been administering since 2006, TLC would like to see greater focus of these investments on filling key gaps in off-and on-road systems, more complete streets projects connecting to transit and key community destinations, and investment in bike/walk centers in underserved communities.
We would also like to see revisions to state and county cost-participation policies so that these bicycle and pedestrian projects vital to safety, equity, and access for everyone don’t require special funding but become a part of every transportation project.
In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to push locally for planning and community engagement so your city and county have shovel-ready projects to propose in upcoming funding rounds. We also encourage significant local funding for these vital nonmotorized projects, which improve health and provide access for everyone..