Local governments in New York are still waiting for the state to distribute tens of millions of dollars from the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, which is primarily used for bicycle and pedestrian projects. The last round of grants came in April 2009, and the last time NYSDOT solicited applications from municipalities and other eligible entities was more than two and a half years ago, in January 2008.
This is actually typical; solicitations are usually announced only every 2 or 3 years. But when Tri-State contacted NYSDOT’s Transportation Enhancements office to find out the timeline for the next round of awards, we were told that it was “currently under discussion internally.” Sounds like solicitations won’t be announced any time soon.
It’s not even clear how much TE money the state has to give, and state officials did not respond when asked. Since the last round of TE grants, New York has received another $29 million in TE contract authority (the maximum the state is allowed to spend in a federal program) through an extension of the federal transportation law, SAFETEA-LU.
New York City typically gets short-changed in the distribution of TE funds despite having greater rates of walking and cycling than other parts of the state. While the State DOT’s Region 11 (NYC) office represents more than 40 percent of the state’s population, it received only 25 percent of TE funds in the last round of awards. And none of those awards were made under the stimulus act, which offered the advantage of not requiring a match to the federal dollars.
Meanwhile, demand for bicycle and pedestrian projects continues to grow, as evidenced by recently passed Complete Streets policies in communities as different as urban Buffalo and suburban Brookhaven. Municipal transportation planners need to know when they might expect federal funding to be available so they can meet those demands.