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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Serving Rural America

Enhancing Our Communities and Protecting Our Environment

The Rural Environment: Rural areas and small communities are facing many environmental challenges
similar to those faced by our cities - challenges that are the inevitable byproduct of growing travel demand, increased sprawl and dispersed destinations. The challenge is to maintain the vitality of these rural areas and small communities while preserving and protecting the natural, historic, scenic, and cultural environment, including productive rural working farmlands. Improvements in air and water quality not only have positive environmental benefits, but also recreational and economic benefits as well, particularly for those areas largely dependent upon tourism.

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The Department has a wide range of programs directed specifically toward protecting and enhancing communities and the natural environment affected by transportation. In addition, many of the other transportation programs listed elsewhere in this brochure have environmental components. These programs are significant in preserving our quality of life and protecting the environment.

Community and Environmental Programs

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

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Purpose: The purpose is to fund projects that are likely to contribute to the attainment or maintenance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in areas that do not meet these standards or in former nonattainment areas that are now in attainment for ozone, carbon monoxide or fine particulates. Areas must be formally designated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be eligible.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include those that will reduce transportation-related emissions, such as transit improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow improvements, and fleet conversions to cleaner fuels. CMAQ funds can also be used to provide some support to clean fuel conversions by privately-owned fleets.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Funding is $8.122 billion for FYs 1998 - 2003. Funding is based on a formula that considers population by county and the severity of air quality problems. Also, there is a one-half of one percent minimum for each state.

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Transportation Enhancements

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Purpose: The purpose is to fund transportation-related activities designed to strengthen cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of the Nation's transportation system.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects must be related to surface transportation and include a wide variety of projects that enhance transportation.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Funding is from a 10 percent set aside from the Surface Transportation Program, or approximately $3.7 billion (including equity adjustments) for FYs 1998 - 2003.

Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways

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Purpose: The purpose is to promote the increased use and safety of bicycling and walking as transportation modes.

Eligible Projects: Bicycle and pedestrian projects may be on- or off-road facilities. For off-road trails, all such facilities should serve a transportation function; a trail serving a recreational purpose with no transportation function is a recreational trail (described below). Individuals and organizations interested in initiating a project should first gain support of local governments. The next step is to work with the State transportation agencies to determine eligibility, availability of funds, and priority. The projects must be included in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Funding sources for construction of bicycle transportation facilities, pedestrian walkways and non-construction projects related to safe bicycle use include the National Highway System (NHS), Surface Transportation Program (STP) Funds, Transportation Enhancement Activities (ten percent of each State's annual STP funds), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program Funds, Hazard Elimination, Recreational Trails, Scenic Byways and Federal Lands Highway Funds.

Recreational Trails Program

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Purpose: The purpose is to provide and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include: maintenance and restoration of existing trails, development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages, purchase and lease of trail construction and maintenance equipment, construction of new trails (with restrictions for new trails on Federal lands), acquisition of easements or property for trails, state administrative costs related to this program (limited to seven percent of a state's funds), and operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection related to trails (limited to five percent of a state's funds). Funds may not be used for property condemnation or constructing new trails for motorized use on National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands unless the project is consistent with resource management plans or facilitating motorized access on otherwise non-motorized trails.

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The maximum Federal share from this program is 80 percent, but Federal agency project sponsors may provide an additional Federal share (up to 95 percent), and other Federal programs may be used toward the non-Federal share. Soft match provisions are allowed. Of funds distributed to a state, 30 percent must be used for motorized use, 30 percent must be used for non-motorized use, and 40 percent for diverse trail uses. States may provide grants to private organizations, or to municipal, county, state, or Federal government agencies. Some states, by policy, do not provide funds to private organizations. Projects on private land must provide written assurances of public access.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding:A total of $270 million is authorized for FYs 1998 - 2003.

National Scenic Byways Program

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Purpose: The purpose of The National Scenic Byway Program is to provide national recognition of roads that represent outstanding examples of scenic, historic, cultural, recreational, and natural qualities as well as to provide technical and financial assistance.

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Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include technical assistance and grants for the purposes of developing scenic byway programs and undertaking related projects along roads designated as National Scenic Byways, All-American Roads, or State Scenic Byways. National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads are roads that have been designated under the National Scenic byways programs for their outstanding scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities. State Scenic Byways can be designated in accordance with criteria developed by the state. Eligible projects include corridor management plans for the byway, interpretive facilities and overlooks along the byway, preservation and enhancement of historic, scenic or other resources along the byway, and marketing the byway.

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The maximum Federal share of this program is 80 percent. A Federal land management agency may use funds authorized for use by the agency as the non-Federal share for any scenic byways project along a public road that provides access to or within Federal or Indian land.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Financial assistance is provided through reimbursable discretionary grants. Funding is $148 million for FYs 1998 - 2003.

Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot

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Purpose: TEA-21 established the Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program (TCSP) in response to the increasing interest in "smart growth" policies that encourage investments in maintenance of existing infrastructure over new construction, investment in high-growth corridors, and efficient access to jobs and services. The key purpose of this pilot program is to devise neighborhood, local, metropolitan, state, or regional strategies that improve the efficiency of the transportation system, minimize environmental impacts, and reduce the need for costly public infrastructure investments.

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Eligible Projects and Activities: Funds may be used for planning grants or implementation grants for any project currently eligible for funding under the highway or transit titles (Title 23 and Chapter 53 of title 49 U.S.C.) or other activities determined by the Secretary to be appropriate to investigate and address the relationship between transportation and community and system preservation. Applicants may include states, metropolitan planning organizations, and units of local governments that are recognized by a state.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies and metropolitan planning organizations.

Funding: Funding is $20 million for FY 1999 and $25 million per year for FYs 2000 through 2003.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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