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2003 State Trail Administrators Meeting

Questions and Answers

Questions in bold. Answers in normal print. Quotations from Law or Guidance in italics.

ABBREVIATIONS

DNR: Department of Natural Resources (generic term including Department of Conservation, Environmental Protection, Environmental Management, etc.)
DOT: Department of Transportation
FHWA: Federal Highway Administration
RTP: Recreational Trails Program

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Q: Does any State or locality have experience in permitting Segway Human Transporters or motorized razors [scooters] on trails or paved pathways? (Delaware)

A: If a State uses RTP funds for a trail designated for nonmotorized use, then no motorized vehicles are allowed, including electric vehicles, but excluding motorized wheelchairs used by people who have mobility impairments.

The RTP legislation states:

  1. DEFINITIONS.--In this section, the following definitions apply:
    1. MOTORIZED RECREATION.--The term "motorized recreation" means off road recreation using any motor-powered vehicle, except for a motorized wheelchair.
  2. USES NOT PERMITTED.--A State may not obligate funds apportioned to carry out this section for--
    1. upgrading, expanding, or otherwise facilitating motorized use or access to recreational trails predominantly used by nonmotorized recreational trail users and on which, as of May 1, 1991, motorized use was prohibited or had not occurred.

A motorized wheelchair is a mobility aid, usable indoors, and designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments. A motorized wheelchair may not be prohibited from using any nonmotorized trail, regardless of funding source. If a State uses RTP funds on a trail designated for nonmotorized use, then Segway or electric scooter use [by people who do not have mobility impairments] is not allowed. [However, if a Segway is a person's mobility device, then it must be allowed, even though you must exclude most other Segway users. This is similar to a situation where no pets are allowed except animals assisting people with disabilities.] Note: Portions in brackets deleted December 1, 2004. Segways and electric scooters do not meet the legal definition of "wheelchair" in 49 CFR 37.3.

If a State uses other FHWA funds on a trail, but has not used RTP funds, then 23 U.S.C. 217(h) applies, and State or local governments may allow snowmobiles or electric bicycles. There are legislative proposals to allow "electric personal assistive mobility devices" which would include the Segway, but not the scooter. Section 217 does not apply to trails funded under the RTP.

We can see an argument that RTP funds were used to upgrade a trail for bicycle use, but scooters use it anyway, and the law doesn't specifically state that we must prohibit motorized use if that was not the reason for upgrading the trail. We can foresee other "what if" situations such as "we used TE funds on this section, RTP funds on this section, how are we going to enforce this," etc. Use reasonable judgment on a case by case basis. The clearest reading of the law is to prohibit electric vehicles from using trails funded under the RTP that are designated nonmotorized trails.

If a State has not used any FHWA funds on a trail, then no FHWA laws or regulations apply.

PROJECTS COMPLETED UNDER BUDGET

Q: Can a State utilize balances that are left over from projects that run under the grant amount awarded or projects that are cancelled?

A: Yes. See the Guidance at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/guidance/rtp9908_pt1.cfm#rtp10. Please deobligate and reobligate within the same Federal fiscal year, to avoid end of fiscal year problems.

Q: If so, can a State accumulate the leftover balances to award to a single or multiple projects?

A: Yes. When you deobligate funds from projects, the funds become available to the State for other eligible projects. Please note, the 30 percent minimums for motorized and nonmotorized projects are still in effect; if you had leftover funds from a motorized project needed to meet the 30 percent minimum, then the funds should be used for another motorized project.

Q: What procedures would a State need to follow to utilize available balances?

A: Work with your FHWA Division office to deobligate the funds. To obligate funds for new projects, use your State's regular project selection process. For example, if you had selected projects, but did not have enough funds available, you could fund your next highest ranking projects. You also may carry over the funds for the next round of projects.

Updated: 10/10/2014
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