Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)
George G. Kinney, AICP, Director of Transportation Planning
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) recently announced the availability of transportation enhancement funding through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) at an informational meeting on November 19, 2015. This funding was made available through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) federal funding and authorization bill, which has recently been replaced by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST).
What is the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)?
The TAP program offers a competitive funding opportunity for transportation enhancement projects that are not typically accounted for in a Long Range Transportation Plan or Transportation Improvement Program. Eligible project categories include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, rail-to-trail conversions, and other mobility and safety enhancement projects.
How much funding is available?
Both regional and state TAP funding is available to the Lehigh Valley. The LVPC has approximately $1.27 million dollars and the state has approximately $9 million available to award over the next two years.
The minimum request for construction projects is $50,000, and a soft cap of $1 million stands as the maximum ask. The soft cap means that projects with a construction value over $1 million must be of ‘exceptional value’ and describe, through the application, why additional project expense is justified. Examples include a project that closes a major transportation gap, addresses a significant safety concern, or benefits a substantial amount of users.
Who can apply for TAP?
Local governments, regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, natural resource or public land agencies, school districts and local education agencies, tribal governments, and any other local regional governmental entity with responsibility for oversight of transportation or recreational trails are eligible to apply. Only one application is necessary to pursue both state and regional funds.
How will sponsor projects be evaluated?
Ten project categories are eligible for funding under the program. The goal of the LVPC is to promote innovation and mobility consistent with the recently adopted MOVELV: Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), and only six of the categories support this vision. Accordingly, regional project scoring will include an emphasis on innovation and design, land use integration and consistency with the regional Comprehensive Plan and LRTP. The six categories eligible for regional funding only include bike/pedestrian facilities; bike/pedestrian education; conversion of abandoned railway corridors to trails; construction of turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas; historic preservation and rehab of historic transportation facilities; and archaeological activities. The remaining four categories—outdoor advertising management, vegetation management, stormwater management and wildlife mortality mitigation—are only eligible for state funding.
What is my match?
TAP is not a grant program, and no match is required nor is any funding provided upfront. Instead, it is the obligation of the project sponsor to pay for all pre‐construction costs, including design, environmental clearance, right-of-way acquisition and utility costs. All projects must demonstrate that they can go to construction within a two-year period from the date of the award.
Do I need a consultant?
It is not required, but it is strongly recommended that project sponsors and/or their consultants have demonstrated experience in Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) project delivery expectations and the timely delivery of TAP associated projects.
The application deadline has passed….what’s next?
The application submission deadline was January 8th, and the LVPC received 23 applications. For the applications considered for regional funding, projects will be reviewed jointly by the LVPC and PennDOT District 5. While the exact dates are yet to be determined, project sponsors will be invited to make a presentation sometime in February or March of 2016. Notice will be provided to all project sponsors once dates and times are established.
Following joint review and presentations, the LVPC transportation planning staff, also serving as staff to the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS), will prepare and present recommendations to the LVTS for their consideration. It is anticipated that the LVTS will approve successful projects at their April 2016 meeting.
Where do I go with questions?
The LVPC has set up a TAP webpage at http://www.lvpc.org/tap.html, and the PennDOT TAP page is at https://spportal.dot.pa.gov/Planning/AppReg/Pages/default.aspx.