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RTP Funding In Jeopardy As Congress Cuts Federal Programs

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RTP Funding In Jeopardy As Congress Cuts Federal Programs

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

Congress has its hands full.

In one hand, it holds the keys to the front door of the federal government, trying to keep it open. In the other hand, it holds an axe, sharpened and ready to drop on any program it deems unworthy of continued funding.

Unfortunately, one of those programs in line for the go-ahead or the chopping block is the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). “It’s a pretty serious situation,” said Karen Umphress, NOHVCC Project Coordinator. “It’s alarming that the RTP program could go away or be significantly altered. There are a lot of programs that are funded using RTP money. It’s something that the motorized and non-motorized communities want to keep around.”

RTP is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), providing funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses.

A one-year extension of the program was due to expire at the end of March, 2011. Progress was made in early March, when both the House and Senate passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011, extending federal transportation programs to September 30th of this year. H.R. 662 was introduced in the House by the Republican and Democrat leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That legislation freezes funding at fiscal year 2010 levels for highway, transit and highway safety programs.

The political wrangling has been ongoing for some time. “The non-motorized contingent at the federal level is really working hard to try and keep all of the programs the same as they are,” said Umphress. “But some groups and politicians believe that trails aren’t essential to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. There’s also a group of Senators who are opposed to any money being spent that isn’t for something specific.”

NOHVCC and state OHV advisory boards are encouraging OHV enthusiasts across the country to contact their Congressional delegates. “Please act quickly and loudly,” said Becky Kalagher, Board Chair of the Massachusetts Recreational Trail Advisory Board (MARTA. “Many voices will be fighting for and against including RTP funding. If the bill is passed, it likely will be in effect for six years. If we don’t save RTP funding now, we won’t have another reasonable chance to restore this major funding for trails for several years.”

The RTP funds are distributed to the states by legislative formula, with half distributed equally among all states, and half distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of non-highway recreational fuel use in each state.

To see the funding levels for your state, visit: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/...s/recfunds.htm.

For the name of your state’s RTP administrator, for guidance on state policies and project eligibility requirements, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/...s/rtpstate.htm.

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