By Charles Pekow
The start of the next reauthorization of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) has begun. It has a long way to go and a lot of changes before it gets folded into the next surface transportation reauthorization package which expires after FY 20. But if history is a guide, it may take another year with a temporary extension.
But two senators have introduced the TAP Enhancements Act (S. 1098), sent to the Committee on Environment & Public Works. While the bill has bipartisan support in that half of its sponsors come from each party, so far only senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) have sponsored it (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1098/ ).
The bill aims to loosen federal control and make it easier for smaller communities to get grants if states develop a plan and award funds competitively. The changes would start in FY 21.
Under current law, TAP can't get more than $850 million a year. Under the bill, it would get 10 percent of the Surface Transportation Block Grant, so it could grow if the overall program grows. Now, states get half and local communities get the other half of TAP. The bill would give local communities two-thirds, a move designed to give smaller towns a fairer shake. Current law also only allows metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) serving at least 200,000 people to get funds; the bill would open it up to smaller MPOs.