How to Get Sidewalk Funding & Money for Bikeways, Transit Paths

Getting communities to be more walkable and bikeable is a national goal from the White House on down, but how you get sidewalk funding?

Like many communities, you are probably searching for sidewalk funding that can help you repair your pedestrian pathways, increase your community's walkability or make it safer for people to cross freight railroads or access public transportation.

In 2015 the U.S. Surgeon General raised a call to action for all Americans to become more physically active through walking and for state and local governments to better support pedestrian mobility. Increasing the walkability of your community is a climate-friendly action, too. The less we use our cars, and the more we walk, the fewer greenhouse gases we release. At least that's the thinking behind the 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan that supports the proposed U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) 2017 Budget, which could help you pay for your sidewalk projects.

Each year USDOT makes grants and loans available through its various agencies and state agencies for transportation-related programs that would include public transit improvements, as well as expansions--including sidewalk funding.

Follow these resources to help you find funding that may fit the mobility, transportation and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) projects you are planning or working on.

Regional Public Access

Through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program provides federal direct loans, loan guarantees and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of major significance.

One example is a $420 million transportation reconstruction project connecting downtown Chicago, Ill., to its waterfront. The Chicago Riverwalk Expansion, a six-block pedestrian pathway along the Chicago River in its final phase of construction, was a $112 million piece of the reconstruction project. The overall project, including the sidewalk funding, was partially paid for with a TIFIA direct loan of $99 million.

Safer Routes to School

The national Safer Routes to School (SRTS) program is currently funneled through the states as part of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) administered by FHWA. TAP money for many types of projects that support students walking or bicycling to school is possible--including sidewalk funding.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is currently accepting SRTS grant applications through June 27, 2016, for Garden State municipalities. Other states post their announcements and deadlines at various times throughout the year.

NJDOT is looking for planning, development and implementation of safety improvements, as well as traffic and fuel reductions in the vicinity of schools, that can include:

  • New, upgraded or ADA-compliant sidewalks
  • ADA curb ramps
  • Crosswalk installation or striping
  • Pedestrian crossing signs
  • Pedestrian push buttons or signal heads on‐street bike lanes or shoulders
  • Off‐road bike paths or trails
  • Bike route signs
  • School zone delineation
  • Traffic calming devices (i.e., center island medians, curb extensions, speed humps, etc…)
  • New or upgraded intersection or crosswalk treatments (i.e., median refuges, traffic signals, pavement markings, pedestrian countdown signals, etc…)

Bike Paths

In 2015 the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) awarded 63 grants totaling nearly $15 million to counties, municipalities and non-profits for bikeways, recreational trails and transportation alternatives programs.

The FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian Program updates updates a Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding Opportunities chart of USDOT funding sources for all kinds of pedestrian and bike needs, from access enhancements to tunnels.

Public Transportation Paths

For 2017, the USDOT budget proposed $3.6 billion per year over 10 years to expand the development, access and use of public transit.

Certain Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants, and Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST grants, could also help fill your sidewalk funding needs, depending on individual grant program requirements.

Rail Crossings

In 2015, FRA offered $10 million in grants to improve highway rail crossings along energy freight routes. Highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities throughout the country, according to USDOT.

Through its Grow America program, the Federal Railroad Administration manages an expanded Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Finance Program for public and private entities that operate railroads.

Under the FHWA, there is dedicated grant program funding for highway rail grade crossing projects through the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

In its 2017 budget, USDOT proposes $7 billion annually over 10 years in part for rail safety improvements and additional high-performance rail investments that would be funneled through these and other programs.

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