Article by: Monika Pal
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). BIL/IIJA includes significant funding for new transportation programs that could dramatically increase access, mobility and safety for all vulnerable road users, especially bicyclists and pedestrians.
With increased funding levels and requirements that states prioritize communities where there has been chronic underinvestment and a lack of participation in transportation decisions, the BIL/IIJA is a historic investment in the nation’s core infrastructure priorities. The law aims to make a difference in transportation equity, sustainability, resilience, climate change, safety, and asset condition. It includes significant funding levels and important policy changes to invest in connected streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes, and it specifically directs funds to underserved neighborhoods and communities.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a significant opportunity to create safer, healthier, more sustainable and more equitable communities. It contains unprecedented funding for active transportation and the protection of vulnerable road users. –Elise Bremer-Nei, NJDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program is a federal initiative that was created in 2005 as part of the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill. The program allocated funds for states to support infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects and initiatives, as well as to appoint an SRTS coordinator. As per FHWA, around 10%–14% of car trips during morning rush hour nationally are for school purposes (USDOT, n.d.). As a result, there is an increase in the level of congestion in the morning peak hours, leading to poor air quality and unsafe traffic conditions around our schools. Moreover, there is a lack of sidewalks and crosswalks and low physical activity levels among children. Therefore, SRTS programs focus on promoting walking and bicycling to school through infrastructure improvements, safety education, enforcement, and incentives to encourage walking and bicycling to school. The stand-alone federal SRTS program and its dedicated funding source were discontinued in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act in 2012 and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015. However, those transportation bills made SRTS projects and activities eligible for Transportation Alternatives (TA) Set-Aside funding, which in turn is part of the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program.
In 2021, Section 11119 of the IIJA recodified the SRTS Program and amended it to extend the program through 12th grade, enabling and encouraging high school students to walk and bike to school safely. SRTS projects and programs are broadly eligible for most surface transportation funds, however, most states fund SRTS through the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP). BIL/IIJA also strengthens the language in the federal Surface Transportation Program and the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) to proactively affirm that those funds can be used for Safe Routes to School projects. In addition, it creates and affirms opportunities for staffing local and statewide SRTS coordinators. According to the law, five percent of TAP funding for technical assistance may be used for a State SRTS coordinator position to promote SRTS projects funded under the TAP program.
Extending Safe Routes to School to students in grades nine through twelve is a welcome addition to an already successful program in New Jersey. –William Riviere, NJDOT Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator
Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)
In addition to expanding the reach of the SRTS program, BIL/IIJA includes a 60% increase in funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) overall and new rules intended to make it easier for local governments to implement the program. TAP funding supports multiple types of projects for active transportation, including sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, multi-use paths, and shared micromobility.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) currently has an active solicitation for TAP applications. The deadline for these applications is November 3, 2022. Free online information sessions are being offered through the NJ Safe Routes Resource Center and NJDOT’s Division of Local Aid and Economic Development. Visit the NJ Safe Routes Resource Center website for more information.
Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has numerous funding provisions to increase safety, accessibility, and mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians, including the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which is focused on enhancing safety for all road users. The law requires that a minimum of 15% of HSIP funds be used to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in states where vulnerable road users account for more than 15% of all traffic fatalities. While New Jersey is one of these states, NJDOT is already spending 50% of its HSIP funds on bicycle and pedestrian safety projects.
Safe Streets and Roads for All Funds (SS4A)
BIL/IIJA also allocates up to $1 billion for FY22 and $5 billion for the next 5 years for the Safe Streets and Roads for All program. This will fund the creation and implementation of safety plans related to engineering, education, and enforcement. Once plans are developed, SS4A funding can be used for the planning, design, development, and construction of projects and strategies. The BIL also stipulates that MPOs must use at least 2.5% of its Metropolitan Planning funds on developing Complete Streets and Safe Streets policies that “increase safe and accessible options for multiple travel modes,” which can include shared micromobility. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for FY 2022 is now open for SS4A grants and is available on grants.gov and the SS4A website.
Reconnecting Communities Pilot (RCP) Program
The BIL establishes the Reconnecting Communities Pilot (RCP) discretionary grant program, intended to help reconnect communities previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure. The program supports planning grants, capital construction grants, and technical assistance to restore community connectivity through the removal, retrofit, mitigation, or replacement of eligible transportation infrastructure facilities. There is a total of $1 Billion allocated to the RCP program over five years. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for FY 2022 is now open for RCP grants and is available on grants.gov and the RCP website.
Funding for both the Safe Streets for All and the Reconnecting Communities initiatives is directly provided to grant recipients by the federal government. Municipalities, counties and MPOs must apply directly to USDOT for these grants.
The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has the potential to make life better for millions of people in New Jersey. For more information on how to access new and existing grant programs, visit the NJDOT Local Aid Resource Center and the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center web pages.
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (2021)
- US Department of Transportation (N.D.). Safe Routes to School Programs. https://www.transportation.gov/mission/health/Safe-Routes-to-School-Programs
- SRTS Guide. http://guide.saferoutesinfo.org/
- Whitaker, C. (2021). Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passes with Major Funding for Better Biking. The League of American Bicyclists. https://bikeleague.org/content/bipartisan-infrastructure-bill-passes-major-funding-better-biking
- Damiana, C. (2021). What’s Happening With Infrastructure Investment? The League of American Bicyclists. https://www.bikeleague.org/content/whats-happening-infrastructure-investment
- Destinie (2022). State of Affairs: Current US Federal Policy Impacting Shared Micromobility. North American Bikeshare & Scootershare Association. https://nabsa.net/2022/01/21/iijaandbbb/
- Safe Routes Partnership. https://www.saferoutespartnership.org/
- Lambert, D. (2021). Safe Routes to School and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Toole Design. https://tooledesign.com/insights/2021/12/safe-routes-to-school-and-the-infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act/
- U.S. Department of Transportation (2022). The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Will Deliver for New Jersey. https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/bipartisan-infrastructure-law-will-deliver-new-jersey