As ever, the end of the federal fiscal year has been busy with hearings, budget debates, and states running competitions for federal funding. To keep you in the loop across a variety of topics, here are a few headlines related to Safe Routes to School, walking, and bicycling at the federal level.
Shailen Bhatt’s FHWA Administrator Nomination and Committee Hearing
President Biden nominated Shailen Bhatt as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, a position that has not yet been filled during the Biden Administration. Bhatt had a confirmation hearing in mid-September in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. In addition to his work in the private sector, Shailen Bhatt has extensive experience in leadership roles within departments of transportation in Delaware, Kentucky, and Colorado. In each of these states, Bhatt worked to make Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking safer and more popular. During his opening remarks at his confirmation hearing, Shailen Bhatt reflected on working to improve connections to schools in rural counties, a nod to his work elevating Safe Routes to School. Safe Routes Partnership was proud to submit a letter of support for his confirmation.
White House Conference and National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health
On September 28th, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and an accompanying National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Safe Routes Partnership had submitted comments over the summer to ensure that access to food (Safe Routes to Healthy Food) were part of the equation when considering hunger and nutrition, and our staff was pleased to participate virtually in the conference.
The National Strategy is rich with ideas for improving access to healthy foods, reducing hunger, and improving health. Two strategies our organization is particularly enthusiastic about include encouraging state and local governments to implement Safe Routes to School programs (p. 31) and calling on Congress to provide funding to expand the Centers for Disease Control’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs (SPAN) to all fifty states, as it currently only reaches 16 states (p. 28). In partnership with several other active transportation and health organizations, Safe Routes Partnership continues to lobby Congress to expand its investment in the SPAN program.
Before the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30, 2022), Congress passed a continuing resolution to maintain current funding levels and avert a government shutdown. This maintains current funding levels, however, programs like Transportation Alternatives received advance appropriations through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will increase as scheduled. The continuing resolution expires on December 16, 2022, at which point Congress must pass a budget for FY23 or extend the continuing resolution again.
FHWA Chart on Pedestrian and Bicycle Funding Opportunities
The Federal Highway Administration recently released its updated table on Pedestrian and Bicycle Funding Opportunities. The table has expanded to accommodate the many new programs and changes to programs in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. At first, this table appears overwhelming, but it can serve as a terrific resource for Safe Routes to School coordinators, bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, Transportation Alternatives Program managers, and advocates of all stripes wishing for an at-a-glance reference guide for what is eligible for various federal funding programs. Notice that almost all activities/project types listed are eligible for the Transportation Alternatives Program!
State-by-state TAP implementation
Our organization has tracked state implementation of the Transportation Alternatives Program every quarter since the program’s inception, and before that, we tracked the implementation of the Safe Routes to School program. Given the many changes to Transportation Alternatives in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, next month, we will unveil our updated quarterly tracking of how states are implementing the program.
As always, send us your questions, ideas, or concerns related to federal policy to firstname.lastname@example.org