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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TAP in the TIP

Yes, it sounds like we’re about to tiptoe (or tap dance?) through the tulips. But, word play aside, putting some TAP into the TIP is a good thing for the Treasure Valley. The “TIP” is the Regional Transportation Improvement Program; a five-year budget of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects in Ada and Canyon Counties. The draft FY2014 – 2018 TIP is open for public comment through noon on Wednesday, September 4.

“TAP” stands for “Transportation Alternatives Program,” and is a new (ish) funding stream developed under MAP-21, the federal transportation law passed in July 2012. TAP funds are meant for alternative transportation projects, such as developing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, managing Safe Routes to Schools programs, and improving transportation infrastructure to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The reason I say it is “new-ish” is that it is actually a combination of three old funding streams ― Recreational Trails, Enhancements, and Safe Routes to School. However, the implications to the Treasure Valley are greater than just a combining and renaming old programs. I’ve outlined a few of the more significant impacts below:

-          TAP funds provide funding that was previously not available in Idaho. In 2008, the Idaho Transportation Board voted not to allocate “enhancement” funding in Idaho. Prior to 2008, enhancement funds had been available for projects such as sidewalks and landscaping for transportation projects. But, since 2008, federal funds had not been available for those types of projects. The Idaho Transportation Board voted to allocate TAP funding for its intended use in June 2013, meaning funding is again available for alternative transportation projects. This is good news for all of Idaho, and locally will primarily affect the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural parts of both Ada and Canyon Counties.

-          “Transportation Management Areas” (TMAs) will receive their own TAP funds. A TMA is an urbanized area with a population over 200,000. The Boise Urbanized Area (generally encompassing northern Ada County) is the only TMA in Idaho. As a TMA, the Boise Urbanized Area will be directly allocated approximately $414,000 in TAP funds each year.

-          Safe Routes to Schools funding has now been lumped into TAP. Previously, Safe Routes to Schools had its own “dedicated” funding. Now, Safe Routes programs must compete with other programs and projects for funding. In addition, a 7.5% “match” of local dollars is now required for Safe Routes to Schools projects; before, no match was required. This has caused some concern for Safe Routes to Schools advocates, as its funding is less secure from year to year. However, Safe Routes to Schools was the top priority for TAP funding in the COMPASS planning area and is funded in the FY2014 - 2018 TIP.

We have already witnessed the great demand for these funds. In July, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) solicited applications for TAP projects statewide. A total of 89 applications were submitted, totaling over $14 million. Unfortunately, those applicants are competing for only $3 million, so many quality projects will not be funded. For the Boise Urbanized Area, 18 applications were submitted totaling approximately $4.6 million to be spent over fiscal years 2013 - 2018; all competing for approximately $414,000 per year, or $2.48 million over the six-year period.

You will see several TAP projects in the draft TIP. They can be easily identified by the “TAP TMA” notation under “funding source” in the TIP documents. At this point, only TAP projects in the Boise Urbanized Area (TMA) are included in the draft TIP. Because of the timing of ITD’s applications for TAP projects outside of the TMA, TAP funds allocated by ITD for projects in the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural areas of Ada and Canyon Counties will be added later, if funded.

I encourage you to take a look at the draft TIP and submit your comments on any of the projects -- TAP related or not. Comments must be submitted in writing and received no later than 12:00 pm (noon), Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Comment online or at an open house or send comments to info@compassidaho.org or A. Luft, COMPASS, 700 NE 2nd Street, Suite 200, Meridian, ID 83642 or fax to 208/855-2559.


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Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.