Federal support for archeological research and wildlife protection could be cut if legislation approved by the U.S. Senate becomes law. A bill to reauthorize the federal highway trust fund includes major changes for a little known program that supports aesthetic and environmental improvements to transportation infrastructure projects.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (S. 1813) would restructure and reduce spending for so-called transportation enhancements. These projects include construction of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, highway beautification, mitigation of pollution from roadways, construction of wildlife corridors, historic preservation, archaeological research, and transportation museums.

The bill passed by the Senate on 14 March would consolidate the transportation enhancements program with several others and cap funding at a lower level. The current highway funding system dedicates 10 percent of certain federal transportation funds for enhancement projects - this is roughly 1.5 percent of overall federal aid for the highway program. Most of these resources have been used for pedestrian enhancements, such as sidewalks and bike trails.

The Senate bill would also eliminate transportation museums from eligibility for funding through the highway trust fund. Additionally, states would no longer be required to spend federal funds on transportation enhancement projects.

The current federal highway authorization bill expires at the end of March. The House of Representatives has thus far been unable to agree on a reauthorization bill. Some Senators are pushing for the House to take up S. 1813.

 


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