Good News for Wyoming – FAST Act Analysis and Thanks to Senator Barrasso
Good news for Wyoming, including all of us biking and walking supporters around the Cowboy state. Congress has passed a new long-term Surface Transportation program, called the FAST Act, which was signed into law by President Obama this month. Many thanks to all of you that have written in support of federal transportation programs that benefit biking and walking in Wyoming communities. Your voice helped make a difference.
The FAST Act provides five years of authorized funding for WYDOT and local governments to improve roads, bridges, pathways, sidewalks, bike lanes, and other transportation projects. To address the needs of people biking and walking, the final bill improves some policies and retains the popular Transportation Alternatives Program as part of a revised Surface Transportation Program. The new bill will continue to be an important source of funding for cities and counties in Wyoming seeking to enhance biking and walking facilities. It also reauthorizes the Recreational Trails Program that provides federal funding for motorized and nonmotorized recreational trails.
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was a critical player in securing a favorable outcome for Wyoming. Barrasso was selected to be a member of the Conference Committee, charged with resolving the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. He successfully included key provisions in the bill that provide regulatory relief and flexibility for rural states like Wyoming.
Senator Barrasso touted Wyoming priorities in his press release, stating “Maintaining our nation’s strong commitment to the safety of our roads, bridges and infrastructure is extremely important,” said Barrasso. “After months of hard work, I’m pleased we were able to pass a bipartisan, long-term solution to our nation’s transportation challenges. Important provisions included in the bill will provide much needed flexibility for rural states like Wyoming, as well as for Indian tribes.”
The FAST Act will provide WYDOT about a 15% increase in federal transportation funding for Wyoming. WYDOT Interim Director Bill Panos expressed his support for the FAST Act, also stating in a Casper Star Tribune story, “The idea of moving people isn’t just about cars. It’s about bikes, it’s about walking. It’s about everything. As a transportation agency, we are interested in all of that.” Wyoming Pathways commends his view on multi-modal access.
Briefly on some of the specifics:
The new Surface Transportation Block Grant – Formerly the Transportation Alternatives Program, was largely retained and funding will increase modestly over the life of the bill. This program has been highly popular with Wyoming communities to construct biking and walking facilities like pathways and sidewalks. Another helpful change is that local nonprofits can now be eligible for grants, such as Safe Routes to School programs. This new program also continues the Recreational Trails Program that provides federal funding for trails in Wyoming. That program is managed by Wyoming State Parks.
National Highway System – Changes language on access for all users (includes bicyclists and pedestrians), from “may take into account” to “shall consider”, an important change so future projects will better consider the needs of people that bike and walk.
Rural Road Waivers – This provision provides the Secretary of Transportation with new authorities to provide exceptions that provide regulatory relief and flexibility for rural road and rural bridge projects. This will help cut federal red tape and expedite project delivery in Wyoming.
Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Funding – This provision will fully return past and future AML payments owed to Wyoming. Under the agreement championed for years by the Wyoming Delegation, Wyoming is now eligible to receive approximately $241.9 million immediately, and approximately $350 million in future years.
Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Program – This provision reinstates flexibility for states to use CMAQ funding for rural transit operations or street sweeping equipment to limit particulate pollution in attainment areas.
TIFIA Qualification – Provides language in the bill to ensure that Wyoming “rural” projects would qualify for lower interest rates and require a lower project dollar amount in order to be eligible under the program.
Transit funds – Provides that bicycle and pedestrian improvements are still eligible for transit funds, like bike parking or sidewalks serving bus stops.
We believe that Senator Barrasso deserves a big “Thank You” from back home in Wyoming for all of his efforts to make this legislation most helpful for Wyoming. You can thank him directly by using the contact form on his Senate website. It means a lot when you let our representatives know that you appreciate their efforts to enhance Wyoming communities.