New Transportation Reauthorization Bill Released

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the weekend released a new reauthorization bill that is very similar to the bill it passed two years ago, which died from inaction from other committees. This new bill provides $304 billion in contract authority, some 90% of which goes out through formula. Though some proposed programs were eliminated from the earlier version of the bill, several notable new programs remain, including new apportionment programs focused on carbon reduction and resilience.

What follows is a brief rundown of some of the more relevant items in the bill. If you want more detail relevant to MPOs and RTPOs on a section-by section-basis, please see NARC’s analysis. This is where you’ll find specific policy changes that the bill contains and other similar information.

Relevant Existing Programs
Surface Transportation Block Grant Program

  • $72B over five years (24% increase over FAST Act)
  • Percent suballocated by population remains at 55%
  • Share of apportionment decreased (from 29.3% to 28.7%) to create Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT Program
  • Adds a fourth population band (50-200K), requiring states spend a relative portion in those areas and consult with their MPOs before doing so (and to ensure equitable division)
  • Off-system bridge set aside increased to 20% (15% in current law)
  • 10% set-aside for Transportation Alternatives
    • TAP suballocated increased to 59%
    • Funds come with obligation authority

Metropolitan Planning

  • $2.28B over five years (32% increase over FAST Act)
  • No major changes in this section specifically, but planning was impacted by other programs throughout the bill

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality

  • $13.2B over five years (+10% over FAST Act)

Highway Safety Improvement Program

  • Share of apportionment decreased (from 7% to 6.7%) to create Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT Program
  • $15.6B over five years (+34% over FAST Act)

Freight Program

  • $7.15B over five years (13% increase over FAST Act)

Safe Routes to Schools

  • Codifies the program

Relevant New Programs and Pilots
Carbon Reduction Program

  • New formula program to reduce transportation emissions
  • Eligible projects include establishing or operating a traffic monitoring, management, and control facility; public transportation projects; bicycle and pedestrian facilities; advance transportation and congestion management technologies; ITS capital improvements and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications equipment; efficient street lighting and traffic control devices; congestion pricing, mode shift, and TDM; projects to reduce environmental and community impacts of freight movement; alternative fuel vehicle deployment support; diesel retrofits; certain CMAQ-eligible projects; and port congestion reduction.
  • $6.4B over five years
    • 65% suballocated


  • Creates a program for resilience improvements
  • Formula funds are distributed to states; discretionary grants are for resilience planning, resilience improvement, community resilience and evacuation routes, and at-risk coastal infrastructure.
  • $7.3B over five years through formula; $1.4B over five years for grants

Bridge Investment Program

  • New competitive grant program to encourage bridge repair that will improve safety, efficiency, and reliability of people and freight movement, and leverages non-Federal contributions
  • $6.5B over five years (half from HTF, half from general funds)
  • TMAs eligible to receive grants

Congestion Relief Program

  • New competitive grant program to provide discretionary grants to “advance innovative, integrated, and multimodal solutions to congestion relief in the most congested metropolitan areas…”
  • Eligible projects include integrated congestion management system; HOV toll lanes, cordon price, parking pricing or congestion pricing; mobility services such as commuter buses and vans; and incentive programs to encourage carpooling.
  • MPOs in areas over 1M population are eligible
  • $250M over five years

Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program

  • New competitive grant program to “improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas”
  • $2B over five years
  • RTPOs are eligible recipients

Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants

  • New competitive grant program to “strategically deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, hydrogen fueling infrastructure, propane fueling infrastructure, and natural gas fueling infrastructure along designed alternative fuel corridors or in certain other locations that will be accessible to all drivers…”
  • $2.5B over five years
  • MPOs are eligible recipients

Healthy Streets Program

  • New competitive grant program to expand the use of cool pavement and porous pavement and expand tree cover
  • $500M over five years

Prioritization Process Pilot Program

  • Pilot program to “support data-driven approaches to planning that, on completion, can be evaluated for planning benefit”
  • $50M over 5 years, maximum awards of $2M
  • MPOs over 200K are eligible

Stopping Threats on Pedestrians

  • New competitive grant program to install bollards for pedestrian protection
  • $25M over five years

Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program

  • New pilot program to study the feasibility and impacts of removing an existing transportation facility that “creates a barrier to community activity” including mobility, economic development, and more
  • Planning grants can be awarded, up to $2M per recipient and federal share of 80%, including to MPOs or other units of local government, to perform the necessary planning functions to establish the feasibility and impacts and conduct public engagement. Allows for the provision of technical assistance.
  • Funding: Planning grants $50M over five years; capital construction grants $14M for each of fiscal years 2022-2026

 Transportation Access Pilot Program

  • New pilot program to develop or procure an accessibility data set and make it available to pilot participants to allow for improved planning by measuring access by different modes to delineated destinations and disaggregating the level of access by a variety of factors
  • Requires the establishment of measures that states, MPOs, and RTPOs may choose to adopt to assess the level of safe and convenient access to previously listed destinations
  • MPOs and RTPOs are eligible.

Strategic Innovation for Revenue Collection

  • New pilot program to “test the feasibility of a road usage fee and other user-based alternative revenue mechanisms to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund”
  • Provides for grants to a state or group of states, local governments or a group of local governments, or an MPO or group of MPOs to carry out pilot projects to: test design, acceptance, equity and implementation including among differing income groups and rural and urban drivers; provide recommendations; quantify administrative costs; test a variety of solutions for collection of data and fees; test solutions to ensure privacy and security of data; conduct public education; and evaluate the ease of compliance and enforcement
  • $75M over five years


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Erich Zimmermann at

Southern California Association of Governments adopts Racial Equity Early Action

The following is a Regions Lead guest post by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG):

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which serves as the metropolitan planning organization for nearly 19 million people – the largest metropolitan planning organization in the nation – adopted its first-ever Racial Equity Early Action Plan. This document will guide and sustain SCAG’s regional leadership in service of equity and social justice.

As in many other regions and communities that shifted attention to equity in summer 2020, SCAG’s Regional Council adopted a resolution affirming SCAG’s commitment to work in partnership with others to close the gap of racial injustice and meaningfully advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. As a result, an ad hoc Special Committee on Equity and Social Justice was tasked with recommending a set of policies to the Regional Council and any necessary changes to the bylaws to the General Assembly to help SCAG meet these objectives.

The Racial Equity Early Action Plan was a critical step in ensuring SCAG’s equity-related work continues to advance and endure for years to come. The Early Action Plan details SCAG’s definition of equity and establishes goals, strategies, and a set of “early actions” to advance racial equity through SCAG’s policies, practices and activities. The Early Action Plan is a “living document,” with opportunities to identify new actions over time. The four overarching goals include:

  1. Shift the Organizational Culture, which is focused on SCAG’s internal work and practices.
  2. Center Racial Equity in Regional Policy & Planning, which refers to SCAG’s regional planning functions.
  3. Encourage Racial Equity in Local Planning Practices, referring to how SCAG can influence the local elected officials and planning professionals with which it works and partners.
  4. Activate and Amplify, in which SCAG commits to communicating more broadly its commitment to racial equity and joining with others in different fields and sectors to amplify impact.

Each of these goals is advanced through a focus on the following three strategies:

  • Listen & Learn – Develop a shared understanding of our history of discrimination and the structural barriers that continue to perpetuate the inequities experienced today.
  • Engage & Co-Power – Create an environment where everyone is included, able to share their experiences, and equipped to talk about racial equity and inequities.
  • Integrate & Institutionalize – Focus on systems change to improve racial equity. Center racial equity in all aspects of work. This involves internal and external systems change.​​

The framework of the Racial Equity Early Action Plan was informed by Equity in the Center’s publication Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, which provides insights, tactics and best practices to shift organizational culture and operationalize equity, and by consultation with Mr. Charles Brown of Equitable Cities.

In support of SCAG’s commitment to “early actions,” the General Assembly voted to amend the SCAG Bylaws to include an increase in representation of “communities of concern” in regional policy conversations.  More information on SCAG’s work regarding inclusion, equity, diversity and awareness, including SCAG’s definition of Racial Equity, can be found here.

Seeking a way to meaningfully engage with other metropolitan planning organizations around equity-related work, SCAG formed the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Equity Working Group in December 2020 in response to expressed interest from other agencies on Government Alliance for Racial Equity discussion boards. Since then, the group convened nearly 40 participants from 19 MPOs and 11 states and discussed equity-related performance measurement and monitoring. The MPO Equity Working Group will discuss equity-oriented project prioritization and integrating equity into long-range plans at the upcoming May 14 meeting. For more information, email Courtney Aguirre at  

Treasury Department Provides Initial Guidance for the Distribution of $350 million in State and Local Aid

On Monday May 10, the U.S. Department of Treasury released guidance on the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund (Recovery Fund), as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Included in the guidance is the flexibility to use Recovery Funds to invest in broadband infrastructure, services and programs to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including capital investments in public facilities, investments in housing and neighborhoods and other guidance counties advocated for. The U.S. Treasury also opened a new web portal that state and local governments must use to receive Fiscal Recovery Funds.


Eligible state, territorial, metropolitan city, county, and Tribal governments may now request their allocation of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds through the Treasury Submission Portal. Eligible local governments that are classified as non-entitlement towns, cities and counties – generally local governments with fewer than 50,000 residents — should expect to receive this funding through their state government — rather than Treasury and should not request funding through the Treasury Submission Portal.

Metropolitan city has the meaning given that term in section 102(a)(4) of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5302(a)(4)) and includes cities that relinquish or defer their statues as a metropolitan city for purposes of receiving allocation under section 106of such Act (42 U.S.C. 5306) for fiscal year 2021.[1]

Nonprofit unit of local government means a “city,” as that term is defined in section 102(a)(5) of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5302(a)(4)), that is not a metropolitan city.[2]


Congress has allocated Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to tens of thousands of eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.  These allocations include:


Amount (Billions):

States & District of Columbia




Metropolitan Cities


Tribal Governments




Non-Entitlement Units of Local Government




Local governments will receive funds in two tranches, with 50% provided beginning in May 2021 and the balance delivered approximately 12 months later. States that have experienced a net increase in the unemployment rate of more than 2 percentage points from February 2020 to their date of certification will receive their full allocation of funds in a single payment; other states will receive funds in two equal tranches. U.S. territories will receive a single payment. Tribal governments will receive two payments, with the first payment available in May and the second payment, based on employment data, to be delivered in June 2021.

Additional Information on Split Payments to State Governments


The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments with significant funding to meet pandemic response needs and build a stronger, and more equitable economy as the country recovers. Recipients may use these funds to:

  • Support public health expenditures, by, for example, funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff;
  • Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;
  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet.

Within these overall categories, recipients have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet the needs of their communities.

NARC will release more information on Treasury’s new guidance in the coming days.


[1] Treasury Guidance. Interim Final Rule. Page 134

[2] Treasury Guidance. Interim Final Rule. Page 134

NARC is Hiring! Join Us as a Transportation & Economic Development Intern

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) seeks a summer intern to support its transportation and economic development programs.

Position Overview:

The successful candidate will work on legislative and policy issues related to NARC’s transportation and economic development programs. Responsibilities may include issue-based research, policy formulation, legislative analysis, Congressional and Administrative correspondence, website content development, Congressional relations support, developing content for NARC’s weekly newsletters, and other duties as assigned.


NARC seeks an intern for 30 hours per week through the summer, with the possibility to extend depending on availability. A stipend is provided. All work is currently conducted on a virtual basis, but we expect interns will be in the office when in-person resumes.


The successful candidate will have excellent research and writing skills and attention to accuracy and detail. Strong interpersonal skills are a must to ensure the smooth operation of our small staff. A background in policy or related experience is a huge plus. Students or recent graduates preferred.

To Apply:

To apply, send a resume, cover letter, and a short writing sample to with the subject “Intern.” Please, no phone calls.