The federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) program funds 10 different types of transportation-related activities. Through activity 9, known as stormwater management, allows communities to decrease the negative impact of roads on the natural environment. Rainwater runoff washing over road surfaces carries pollutants into water supplies, endangering human health and the ecological balance of local streams and rivers. Projects funded in this category seek to reduce these environmental impacts. Since the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program began in 1992, approximately 1 percent of available TE/TA funds have been programmed for environmental mitigation projects.
Working within Federal Highway Administration (
FHWA) guidelines, each state Department of Transportation (DOT) determines the eligibility of TA projects for funding. Examples of projects that may be considered eligible include:
► Detention and sediment basins;
► Stream channel stabilization;
► Storm drain stenciling and river clean-ups;
► Water pollution studies;
The definition for this category is less restrictive under the MAP-21 transportation bill (effective October 1, 2012) than under the previous SAFETEA-LU bill. Projects that were previously ineligible under SAFETEA-LU may be eligible under the new law.
Examples of Successful Projects
A restored segment of Turkey Branch stream.
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection received a $2 million TE grant in 2000 to construct channel restoration and habitat improvements in Rock Creek Park. In an effort to restore and protect the Rock Creek watershed, which ultimately drains to the Chesapeake Bay, this project added modern stormwater controls to 730 acres to the Turkey Branch Stream subwatershed (approx. 30% of the drainage area). The project including work along 12,000 feet of the Turkey Branch Stream, along 13,400 feet of the Sycamore Creek, and along Joseph's Branch Stream. The Rock Creek watershed drains approximately 60 square miles.
You can learn more about the DEP’s work in this watershed by visiting their website at: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dep/
Bartlett Brook Stormwater Treatment System, Vermont. Rainwater runoff from US Route 7 in South Burlington pollutes local streams that feed into Lake Champlain. The city of South Burlington and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources constructed a stormwater treatment system along Bartlett Brook to control the pollution. A $112,600 TE award helped finance the system, which includes a restored stream channel and constructed wetland. Contact: City of South Burlington Planning Department, 802-846-4106.
Restoration of Bartlett Brook.
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/project_examples for additional project examples.
Projects that use TA funds must qualify as one or more of the 10 designated activities and be related to surface transportation in order to meet basic federal eligibility requirements. Past FHWA TE Guidance has required the following for environmental mitigation projects:
► Projects must go above and beyond environmental mitigation required in law for federal-aid highway projects.
► Projects may target wildlife not listed as threatened or endangered species.
In some cases where it is not feasible to construct wildlife crossings, it may be possible to develop new habitat resources or to improve existing habitat resources to support additional population.
Visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/guidance/guidetap.cfm for a full copy of the FHWA TA Guidance.
Most states require TA project sponsors to provide at least 20 percent of project costs, also referred to as matching funds. In many states, the value of donated property, materials and services, the labor of state and local government employees, and the costs of preliminary engineering may count towards the matching requirement. Federal, non-DOT funds can often be used as matching funds. Check with your state TA manager whether these innovative financing options are available in your state. Additional funds for this activity may come from local and state governments, foundations, nonprofit organizations, businesses, or other federal sources.
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/funding_sources for more suggestions on potential funding sources.
► Federal Highway Administration, water quality and Critter Crossings Web sites:
► The Center for Transportation and the Environment (North Carolina State University): 919-515-8893 or http://www.itre.ncsu.edu/cte
► Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University: Offers a reference database focused on animal-vehicle collisions and mitigation options: http://www.westerntransportationinstitute.org/research/roadecology/default.aspx
► USDA forest service, Wildlife Crossings Toolkit: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildlifecrossings/
To Get Started
Inquiries about the TA application process should be directed to the TA manager at your state DOT.
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/contact for TA manager contact information.