The federal government will improve its support of bicycling if lawmakers approve the INVEST in America Act, pending in Congress right now. This federal transportation bill programs $494 billion in transportation funding over the next five years. It dedicates approximately $7 billion to alternative transportation, including biking and walking.
In addition, the Bicycle Commuter Act is pending in Congress. This bill would extend the tax-exempt employer subsidy for parking or transit to bicycling. This would reinstate an improved version of the bicycle commuter benefit that was removed by Congress in the 2017 tax overhaul.
The INVEST in America Act increases funding in the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by 60%. That is the main program that provides federal funds for biking and walking. The program gets approximately 1.4% of total federal transportation funding.
More important than the amount of funding for TAP are the rules that govern how the entire $494 billion is spent. Congress doesn’t explicitly direct how each state can spend its share. That means we can press California to allocate additional funds to Complete Streets and other biking and walking programs.
National partners lobby hard for more funding for bikes
The League of American Bicyclists is lobbying for bicycle funding at the national level. They have won increased transparency and more local control of the Transportation Alternatives Program. They have ensured that funds in other programs, including the $49 billion set aside for local roads, remain eligible to support bicycle infrastructure and programs. Local and state advocacy will be important to ensure that states spend federal transportation dollars on alternative transportation projects.
Another highlight of the bill is a new Active Transportation Connectivity Grant Program. This is a $250 million, one-year grant program for states and local governments to build active transportation networks, spines (connections between communities) and Complete Streets plans. The League is working to get this expanded into an annual program instead of one-time funding.
Next steps for the INVEST Act
Right now, the INVEST Act is a partisan-drafted bill of the Democratic-led House of Representatives. It may look drastically different after amendments from Republican representatives in the coming days and weeks.
Congressional leaders may decide they have a good compromise and pass the bill this year. Or Democratic leaders in the House may choose to wait until next year, in hopes of a more Democratic government. In that case, they would simply extend the existing federal transportation authorization, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Democratic President Obama in 2015.
If you want to learn more about this new federal transportation bill, please read the League’s summary. At CalBike, we will continue to track what’s happening at the national level. We will ensure that California commits to safe and equitable biking using new national funding sources. In the coming days, we may need your support to keep the biking provisions strong and get the bill signed into law. Given the short timeline of Congress, amendments will move quickly. Please stay tuned!