On July 6, President Obama signed into law Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a bipartisan bill authorizing the federal surface transportation program through September 2014 and extending the gas tax and other highway trust fund taxes through September 2016. MAP-21 doesn’t deliver on all of the changes recommended by the Urban Land Institute and other groups interested in transportation reform, but the legislation’s short time horizon provides hope that more progress can soon be made.

Federal funding for transportation programs stays at existing levels plus inflation, and retains the existing split between highways (80 percent) and transit (20 percent). Because revenues from taxes on motor fuels no longer cover existing spending levels, the law supplements the Highway Trust Fund with revenues transferred from other sources, including general revenues.

MAP-21 replaces the previous surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, which expired in September 2009. The federal transportation program has been surviving on a series of extensions since then.

In a departure from past surface transportation authorizations, the new bill contains no earmarks. Other shifts include a significant expansion of the TIFIA loan and loan guarantee program, with funding increasing ten-fold to $1 billion per year. MAP-21 also consolidates the numerous federal highway programs and introduces performance measures for both the highway and transit programs.

ULI members and partners may also be interested in these provisions:

  • Creation of a new Transit Oriented Development planning grant
  • Eligibility, under the New Starts program, of “core capacity” transit capital expansion projects on existing systems
  • Introduction of a national freight strategic plan
  • Direct access by local governments to pedestrian and bicycle funding, although overall funding levels for what were formerly known as “transportation enhancements” have been cut
  • New flexibility for tolling of non-Interstate highways
  • Creation of a $1 billion competitive grant program for multi-modal projects of national and regional significance.

ULI has been engaged in national conversations about the future of surface transportation policy since before SAFETEA-LU expired. In 2009, the ULI report Transportation for a New Era (PDF 1.2MB) laid out priorities for transportation reform, and we have continued to explore the future of transportation policy in a variety of venues.

Now that a new surface transportation bill has arrived, ULI will work to inform members of its shape and contents, and of the development implications and opportunities that the law may bring. We look forward to working with policy leaders in Washington and beyond to shape the implementation of MAP-21. Looking to 2014, we will continue to engage in dialogue about the best path forward for transportation in the new economy.

Please join us October 16 to 19 at ULI’s Fall Meeting in Denver, where transportation will be the subject of much discussion.

Read a summary of the MAPS-21 transportation bill (PDF).