What Does SAFETEA-LU Mean For The National Wildlife Refuge System?
On August 10, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). SAFETEA-LU authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 5-year period 2005-2009. For the National Wildlife Refuge System, SAFETEA-LU means:
Increased Funds for Refuge System Transportation Needs
$145 million for the reauthorized Refuge Roads Program: SAFETEA-LU includes $145 million for the Refuge Roads Program through the Federal Lands Highway Program. After Congressionally mandated obligation limitations, that's about $25 million annually for Fiscal Years 2005-2009.
There are about 4,800 miles of public use roads on Fish and Wildlife Service lands. The funding levels in SAFETEA-LU will allow the Refuge System to address more of its long-standing needs for repair and rehabilitation of refuge roads and bridges.
Opportunities for Refuges to Participate in State and Regional Transportation Planning: SAFETEA-LU requires the development of transportation planning procedures for each land management agency that are consistent with the State and metropolitan planning processes established under ISTEA. Thus, all major FWS transportation projects will be developed in cooperation with State and metropolitan transportation planning organizations and will be included in their transportation plans. SAFETEA-LU also requires that each State, while developing its transportation plans, consider the concerns of Federal land management agencies operating within the boundaries of the State.
Interpretive signage is now an authorized activitiy: Section 1119(j) of SAFETEA-LU amends Section 204(k) so that interpretive signage is now an eligible item for this program. Interpretive signage may now be allowed as part of a road project's enhancements provided that the total cost for all the enhancements does not exceed 5% of the total construction project.
Expanded use of funds as non-federal match: Section 1119(j) of SAFETEA-LU also amends Section 204(k) so that funds made available under the refuge roads program can now be used as the non-federal match for any project funded under Title 23 or chapter 53 of Title 49, so long as that project provides access to or within a wildlife refuge. Fish and Wildlife Service funds and funds provided to the Service throught transportation appropriations can both be used to match other transportation funds, thereby making the Refuge System an appealing partner for state or metropolitan transportation agencies.
Alternative Transportation in National Parks and Public Lands: SAFETEA-LU Section 3021 of Title III provides for alternative transportation in parks and public lands. This is a new program that will be administered by the Federal Transit Administration in cooperation with DOI (BLM, FWS, NPS, BOR) and USDA (Forest Service) through an MOU. While this program's major focus is on motorized land transportation, other types are eligible and encouraged: bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and non-motorized watercraft, and "waterborne access within or in the vicinity of an eligible area" (probably applies to ferry boats). Connecting trail links that would provide connectivity to local trail systems are also eligible.
Opportunities for Refuges to Benefit from Transit Enhancements: SAFETEA-LU provides funds for projects that are designed to enhance mass transportation service or use and that are physically or functionally related to transit facilities. Transit connections to refuges within a grant recipient's service area are eligible for those funds. Funds may be used for bus shelters; landscaping and scenic beautification; public art; signage; pedestrian walkways; bicycle access; and enhanced access for persons with disabilities.
Opportunities for Refuge Partners
Enhancements: The 10% required set-aside for the Transportation Enhancements Program is expected to increase 40% — over $3 billion over the five year life of SAFETEA-LU. The information posted by the National Transportation Enhancements Clearing House can help you understand the qualifying types of projects, how to apply, who to contact and other information related to the program.
National Scenic Byways: Funding for the National Scenic Byways Program increases to $175 million over five years to designate new byways and fund byway-related projects.
Recreational Trails: Funding for the Recreational Trails Fund increases to a total of $370 million over fice years.