Congress Passes Trails-Friendly Transportation Package
December 4, President Obama signed a transportation bill into law providing $85 million for trails nationwide over the next 5 years.
On Dec. 4, President Obama signed a transportation bill into law that will provide $85 million for trails across the nation over the next 5 years. It's a welcome victory, one with bipartisan support, after the Recreation Trails Program (RTP) was threatened with elimination earlier this year.
The measure was passed as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that, in addition to funding hiking and walking trails, will help states provide safe routes to schools, critical bike infrastructure and more. (The Rails to Trails Conservancy has more details on other details of the FAST Act.)
Thanks to everyone who reached out to their members of Congress in November. With strong support from hikers with their boots on the ground and from our elected officials, we can ensure trails are well funded into the future.
What is the Recreational Trails Program?
The federal trails program is funded as part of the Transportation Alternatives Program. Since the early 1990s, this national program has funded recreational trails that provide a backcountry experience by authorizing the revenue generated by the gas tax on fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and off-highway light trucks.
The funds can be awarded to federal and state agencies as well as nonprofit organizations that provide volunteer trail maintenance to land managers. Each year, Washington receives about $1.8 million to distribute as grants. Learn more about how WTA's trails program has benefited from RTP.
Since 1996, RTP has contributed more than $2.3 million to WTA volunteer trail projects. When volunteer investment is added, the total funding equals nearly $12 million.
Trail funding saved thanks to leadership from Washington Representatives
Washington state's delegation in Washington, D.C. knows how important the outdoors are for their constituents and when RTP was threatened with elimination from the transportation package, they stepped up.
Representative Rick Larsen displayed extraordinary leadership in protecting trails funding as part of the Transportation Alternatives Program by leading a letter from all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee requesting funding to continue for the Transportation Alternatives Program. Representative Larsen was also responsible for helping negotiating the final deal with the Senate.