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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
rails to trails conservancy

Dear Campaign Advocate,

We apologize for this second e-mail in as many days. However, we felt it important to notify you about the pending federal rescission of transportation funds and our corresponding strategy.

One week ago today, on August 13, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a congressionally ordered $2.2 billion rescission order to all state departments of transportation (DOTs). Unlike some recent rescission orders, this one does not include a proportionality clause, meaning that states are free to distribute their cuts among various identified transportation programs however they choose to reach their total rescission amount.

Among the group of programs to be considered for cuts are Transportation Enhancements (TE), the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). In the absence of proportionality clauses, many states in the past have disproportionately targeted these programs. TE is the largest source of walking and bicycling funds in the country. CMAQ and RTP also help fund active transportation projects and should not be unfairly cut.

This rescission’s extremely short timeframe—states must submit their rescissions to the Federal Highway Administration by August 25—undercuts the process of discouraging disproportionate cuts to programs that benefit trails, walking and bicycling. In our case, RTC President Keith Laughlin will write to each governor, with copies to state DOT heads, 1) encouraging proportional cuts across programs, and 2) highlighting the bolded guidance in the rescission order (end of section 4) that "Division Administrators should encourage their State department of transportation officials to reach out to stakeholders in considering how to implement the rescission."

Some of you have explicitly asked us how you may advocate on the state level. If you are able to engage immediately, we suggest that you reach out to contacts you have at your state DOT (or cultivate new relationships), encouraging them to preserve funds from the above programs. In particular, note that you are weighing in as a stakeholder, citing USDOT’s emphasis on the importance of gathering stakeholder input regarding how to implement the rescission.

For more information, please see:

Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns about this rescission process.

Sincerely,

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


Dotted rule

Explanation and Interpretation of NTEC State Profiles Chart

This explanation refers to the right-hand chart on a state's TE obligations and rescissions history, accessible from this state profiles menu page.

  • Brown: Available – total funds available to be obligated for projects, accumulated from annual apportionments
  • Red: Rescinded – reductions in previously apportioned funds
  • Purple: Apportioned – annual formula based on a 10 percent set-aside of Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds
  • Green: Obligated – specific spending that has been authorized by the federal government and committed to projects

A state’s available (brown) balance can decline either through rescissions or obligations. Of course, as advocates we prefer to see funds used for their intended purpose and be obligated.

A history of low obligations—typically resulting in a large available (brown) balance—is particularly worrisome, as the state now has a large purse of TE funds it has historically not prioritized for obligations. When a rescission is ordered, this state is forced to return funds, and a pot that has not been prioritized in the past that could comprise a substantial percentage of the rescission amount can hold great appeal. Therefore, as advocates, our goals should be to:

  1. Encourage our DOTs to obligate TE regularly and substantially to avoid the accumulation of a large available balance;
  2. If a large available balance already exists, encourage our DOTs to obligate more than the apportioned amount each year to whittle away at the available balance (for a good example of this process, see either Iowa’s or Rhode Island’s state profile); and,
  3. In responding to a rescission, encourage our DOTs to preserve TE by cutting no more than an equitable proportion.

 

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037
+1-202-331-9696

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037
+1-202-331-9696