Boost to State Walking and Biking Funding – Now Let’s Make it Transformational
Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) will boost the Active Transportation Program (ATP) by $100 million per year. That means $100 million more for walking and bicycling projects across the state to help make our cities, towns, and neighborhoods comfortable, attractive, and convenient places to get around on foot and on bike.
The first two years and $200 million of this new funding is being awarded to projects as quickly as possible this summer. Projects that had already applied for funds last year in the third cycle of ATP grant applications are first in line for this funding, and only in a few metro regions will there be opportunities for agencies to submit new applications for planning or education and encouragement program grants (for example, in the Southern California region). CalBike and our allies support this approach to getting more funding to shovel-ready projects right away, since demand for these funds has far exceeded the amount available every round by as much as four to one, leaving many great projects unfunded.
The rush to get the first $200 million out the door and into projects on the ground is spurred by urgency from our state leaders to start demonstrating the benefits of SB 1 funding to taxpayers as soon as the gas tax goes up in November. The billions in new transportation revenue raised through SB 1 come primarily from increases to gas and diesel fuel taxes, which early polling reveals to be very unpopular with voters. Just a small fraction of this funding is guaranteed to walking and biking projects through the ATP, but we know those projects are very popular. In fact, polling commissioned by CalBike in May showed that 8 in 10 California voters want transportation agencies to change the way they design our streets to make them complete streets that are safe and attractive for walking and bicycling.
Looking beyond the rush to get some ATP funding out to projects quickly, CalBike and our allies are pushing for this funding to be used to build more transformational projects in future rounds. We are working with the California Transportation Commission and Caltrans on criteria for the fourth grant cycle, which will be awarded in 2018, to incentivize projects like connected networks of protected bike lanes and safe walking and bicycling routes to transit. We envision large grants that could be the catalytic investment for communities to spur a big jump in walking and bicycling.
Stay tuned for more details about how next year’s program will create transformational walk and bike investments.