By law, TE projects must relate to surface transportation.
TE is attacked for diverting the Highway Trust Fund for nonhighway purposes, and nonmotorized users don't pay into it. A House of Representatives proposal in Summer 2003 to eliminate TE funds failed: 327-90. But attacks still continue.
Nothing in Federal law or regulation requires trails to be paved, although TE-funded trail projects must have a firm and stable surface to meet accessibility requirements.
Project sponsors must include various interest groups in the project development process, such as equestrians and other trail users, historic preservation advocates, etc.
Although TE projects must relate to surface transportation, nothing in Federal law prohibits TE funded trails from allowing recreational use. The restriction in 23 U.S.C. 217(i) only applies only bicycle projects, not to other uses.
Accessible trails must have a firm and stable surface, but this does not necessarily require paving. It is also possible to have dual tracks: one accessible (firm and stable) track, and one soft surface track.
States may have more restrictive requirements. Project sponsors can limit uses based on safety considerations.
The project development process requires open public involvement for all possible stakeholders. Equestrians, mountain bicyclists, snowmobilers, and others have a right to participate in any trail or highway project development process.