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Landscape and Permeable Pavement Provisions Cut From New Transportation Bill

A new transportation bill, approved by Congress and awaiting President Obama's signature, will fund federal infrastructure and transportation projects until late 2014.

After contentious negotiations and three years of extensions, Congress and President Obama passed a new transportation infrastructure bill to fund federally backed construction projects through Sept. 30, 2014. Despite protests from the ASLA and other groups, key provisions benefiting the landscape industry were removed from the final legislation.

Language directing funds to transportation enhancements (TE) - specifically bicycle and pedestrian lanes, landscaping and beautification, and the purchase of scenic, undeveloped land for preservation - was gutted in the final bill.

Funding was cut from $1.2 billion to $800 million, the provision was changed from TE to "transportation alternatives," and the categories eligible for funding were expanded to include traffic rights-of-way and compliance needs, such as making a roadway or intersection ADA compliant. An analysis of the new language shows that as much as two-thirds of funds previously dedicated solely to TE can now be directed elsewhere by local discretion.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) called for a return of the dedicated funding to TE programs, citing the impact to local economies and small businesses, but the language was kept out of the final bill. Language sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that encouraged research into use of permeable pavers in federally funded construction was included, but does not mandate use of the materials.

The bill passed the House 373-52 and 74-19 in the Senate. No Democrats in either house voted against the bill; opposition in both chambers came from Republicans unhappy with the bill's deficit spending.

Funding for MAP-21 is projected to be about $20 billion short. Capital is supposed to come from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax, but inflation and more fuel-efficient cars have made the tax less profitable, and although construction costs have increased, neither the legislature nor the executive branch is willing to increase the tax to cover funding needs. The funding shortfall will be met by tapping the U.S. Treasury's general fund.

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November 22, 2019, 12:12 pm PDT

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