The Intersections Initiative: How You Can Help Your Community Access Federal Funding for Walking and Bike

Biking in city

Money is available for your community. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides billions for investments in active and public transportation infrastructure that helps Americans get where they need and want to go without having to rely on a personal vehicle. The question is: how can you help your community access it?

America Walks with its partners the League of American Bicyclists and the Safe Routes Partnership have formed the Intersections Initiative, a resource to connect communities with the funding they need to build streets that work for everyone. Earlier this month, we kicked off the Initiative with a webinar that covered some of the federal programs that have a lower barrier of entry: the Transportation Alternatives Program and Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program. Read on to learn more about how to best access funding from each of these programs.
These two programs are not the only ways to fund safer infrastructure for walking and biking. We invite you to access the Intersections Initiative website and reach out to explore how to work with other members of your community to build support for safe infrastructure, through a variety of flexible transportation funding at the state, local, and federal levels.

The Transportation Alternatives Program

Marisa Jones, Policy & Partnerships Director with the Safe Routes Partnership, recommends the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for communities looking to access federal funding for walking and biking for the first time. 

TAP provides funding for walking, biking, and safe-routes-to-schools projects in every state. Unlike many other federal transportation programs, TAP funds are allocated through competitions at the state level, which makes for a smaller pool of applicants. In addition, 59% of TAP funding is channeled into separate competitions based on community size, to ensure every place is able to build safe walking and biking infrastructure.
Want some examples of what’s been built with TAP funding? See what’s been possible across the state of Delaware and in Durango, CO, and Corvallis, MT.

Why start with TAP?

A wide variety of applicants are eligible, including local governments, regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, state and local parks agencies, schools and school districts, Tribal governments, non-profits, and small MPOs. Since the funding is already dedicated to walking and biking infrastructure, you don’t have to further argue your case and compete against other types of transportation projects. Historically, about half of all TAP applications get funded and that number is only expected to increase. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, TAP funding is at an all-time high, starting with $1.3 billion in 2021. This amount increases each year until 2026 when it will reach a 70% increase over pre-Bipartisan Infrastructure Law levels.

How to Get Started

The first step is to find more information about your state’s TAP competition, including when it is held and how to apply. The Safe Routes Partnership and League of American Bicyclists maintain state-specific TAP fact sheets, developed for the Intersections Initiative, which include some of this information. State DOTs also have their own TAP webpages and each state has a TAP coordinator, who can be a useful resource. 

Each state runs their TAP program a little differently, so take the time to figure out what makes an application in your state competitive. Pre-work is often required for successful applications and typically involves demonstrating public support, resolutions of support from local government, and collecting data to identify needs and current under-investment in walking and biking infrastructure.

Safe Streets and Roads for All

Safe Streets and Road for All (SS4A) is another great point of entry for communities looking to make walking and biking safer. Ken McLeod, Policy Director for the League of American Bicyclists, advises communities to apply for both its planning and implementation grants. 

SS4A is a new discretionary grant program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Its goal is to significantly reduce and/or eliminate roadway deaths and injuries through safety action plan development and implementation. The program has a particular emphasis on protecting people outside cars, like pedestrians, bicyclists, and people using mobility devices.

How SS4A works

SS4A funds $5 billion in planning and implementation grants over a five-year period (i.e. $1 billion each year through 2026). Sixty percent of funds go toward implementation grants that build permanent infrastructure, 40% toward planning grants. For planning grants, there are two types: action plan grants and supplemental planning grants. Action plan grants offer funds to communities looking to shift to a Safe Systems Approach, while supplemental planning grants support existing plans and its activities, including quick-build projects and programming. 

Unlike TAP, SS4A is administered directly by USDOT. Funding goes directly to counties, cities, towns, transit agencies, MPO, and Tribal governments. This past year, USDOT 473 planning grants and 37 implementation grants. A large number of smaller communities won planning grants, putting them in the pipeline for future implementation funding. Still, the program was undersubscribed and $200 million went unawarded, so communities on the fence about applying shouldn’t hesitate!

Key steps for applying to SS4A

First, determine if your community already has an existing plan. If it doesn’t, an application for an action plan is a way to get one. If it has a recently created plan, a supplemental planning grant can help build momentum and demonstrate feasibility. Implementation grants build on efforts like these and make them permanent.

It also helps to look at applications that have won previously to get a sense of what made them successful. What do they have in common? They align with the Safe Systems Approach to road safety, collaborate with residents who face the most danger to address their needs, address High Injury Networks to make the most out of investments and support disadvantaged communities in accordance with the administration’s Justice40 Initiative

Making the case locally for safer streets

What if you’re a community leader and not necessarily eligible to apply directly to these programs? What is your role? 

Broad community support is typically needed to get buy-in for an application from agencies and elected officials. You as a community leader can work to bring agencies and elected officials on board.  A combination of community support plus either agency or elected official support is often the prerequisite to action. Show them how dangerous streets directly affect the lives of their constituents, demonstrate that there’s broad support for change, and draw on successful examples from other places that address the issue. 

Need assistance making the case? Reach out to the Intersections Initiative and we can help! Follow all of our webinar content by visiting our website.

Watch the Full Webinar Here:

Helpful Links:

Marisa Jones, Safe Routes Partnership slides

Ken McLeod, League of American Bicyclists

Mike McGinn, America Walks