The California Transportation Commission (CTC) released the list of projects recommended for funding in the first part of the first cycle of the Active Transportation Program, the only state pot of funding dedicated exclusively to walking and biking. So far, we can draw three conclusions:
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) staff can do amazing things when they have to; April Nitsos and Teresa McMillan pulled together an all-hands-on-deck team of ten Caltrans staffers from throughout the agency to evaluate more than 772 applications for more than $768 million in requests;
bicycle projects probably did not benefit from the recent increase in funding;
there’s not enough money in the ATP.
In all, staff recommended 145 projects to be given $184 million of the statewide pot and the $37 million in the small urban/rural pot of funding. An additional $147m will be available from metropolitan planning organizations who will manage their own competitive grant processes in the next few months. Together, the $368 million at stake represents three fiscal years of ATP funding.
Remember: this may sound like a lot of money, but California’s total state and federal transportation budget this year is more than $18 billion.
It’s hard to tell from the project list — which is a problem in itself — but it appears that stand-alone bike projects got about $15 million and mixed bike/ped projects for adult transportation (such as multi-use trails) got about $56 million. Safe Routes to School projects received about $119 million.
The Active Transportation Program is a novel combination of various programs that formerly funded biking and walking, including the now-defunct Bicycle Transportation Account. The California Bicycle Coalition supported it because it provided a 30% increase in funding for bike/ped projects, because the bigger pot — $129 million annually — provided more opportunities for funding whole networks of bikeways, and because it attracted more political attention than a series of smaller projects. At $129 million, the ATP is 18 times larger than the $7.2 million Bicycle Transportation Account.
Still, if stand-alone bike projects received only about $15 million and bike/ped projects only about $56 million, we can’t celebrate an increase in funding for bike projects. And while there was not a single network-oriented project funded, there were 16 projects funded at more than $3 million each, including the biggest award of $10.9 million for a long multi-use trail (multi-use includes golf carts!) in Coachella Valley.
The long list of unfunded projects totaling $547 million represents a sad tale of backward priorities. Safety improvements on the route my partner uses to ride home, a kickoff of San Francisco’s Vision Zero campaign, and improvements to a Santa Monica bike path are just three of many worthy projects that will have to wait at least two to three years before funding is released, unless other funding is found.
Our next steps are to
find additional funding for the worthy projects that did not get funded by the paltry Active Transportation Program;
recommend improvements for the ATP’s next round; and
seek to increase the size of the ATP so it has a better chance of coming close to meeting the need.