Federal, state, and local funding for trails

Freshly paved trail with construction flagging and machinery in the background.

How do we resource the trails network to achieve our vision? From planning to construction and maintenance, it’s clear that funding makes world-class trails possible. Join us in learning from experts about the current state of federal, state, and local trails funding.

During the Leafline Trails Summit on October 13, 2021, Monica Leers (King County Parks) moderated a lively discussion. Speakers included Kevin Mills (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy), Sarah Gutschow (Puget Sound Regional Council), Barb Chamberlain (WSDOT), Mayor Pat Johnson (Buckley, WA), Marguerite Austin (Recreation and Conservation Officer), Christine Mahler (Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition), Tracy Stanton (Emerald Alliance), and Tom Teigen (Snohomish County). A full recording is available below.

Federal funding to connect trails
  • Dedicated active transportation funding within the surface transportation program: Transportation Alternatives, Recreational Trails, and Active Transportation Connectivity Grants
  • Trails are also eligible for transport grant programs including RAISE (formerly TIGER/BUILD), Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, Congressional spending, and Highway Safety Improvement Program
  • Beyond transportation, there’s funding available for economic development (American Rescue Plan), recreation, and disaster relief.
State funding for active transportation and trails
  • State transportation funding comes from fuel tax, sales tax, and the federal income tax. Key grant programs include Safe Routes to School and the Pedestrian/Bicyclist Program.
  • Right now, work is underway to set performance metrics and strategies as part of the Active Transportation Plan Part 2 – comment by Oct. 29.
  • Recreation grant programs at the state level include the Recreational Trails Program, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities, and Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account.
Local and regional funding and processes are vital
  • Puget Sound Regional Council conducts project selection processes for multiple federal transportation funding sources eligible for trails projects, including:
    • Federal Highway Administration: Surface Transportation Block Grant Program & Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
    • Federal Transit Administration: Sections 5307, 5337, and 5339
    • Other PSRC FHWA funding programs: Rural Town Centers & Corridors Program and Transportation Alternatives Program
  • Where is local funding coming from? Parks levies contribute significant trails funding in King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap counties. A Conservation Futures tax is also used for trails in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties.
  • Elected leaders can champion projects at local, state, and federal level.
  • Private sector support is valuable, especially through donations, foundation grants, advertising, or nonprofit match.

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