Michigan Advance: Small State Initiatives Seek Big Federal Funding to Reduce Traffic Congestion

    The Carbon Reduction Program: Funding Transportation Alternatives to Reduce Emissions

    A federal program known as the Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) aims to reduce tailpipe emissions and combat global warming through the funding of transportation alternatives. With a budget of $6.4 billion over five years, the CRP is a small but significant component of the larger bipartisan infrastructure law, which allocated $1.2 trillion to various infrastructure projects.

    While the infrastructure law includes substantial funding for bridge repairs, the CRP focuses on smaller-scale initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions by encouraging alternative modes of transportation. These initiatives include the installation and improvement of sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, trails, and bike share programs. According to Kevin Mills, vice president of policy at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, these programs have the potential to make a significant impact on transportation emissions with relatively modest funding.

    States are now required to submit carbon reduction strategies outlining how they plan to utilize federal funds to reduce transportation emissions. These strategies must identify specific projects and approaches to achieve the CRP’s goals. Elle Segal, an advocacy outreach director at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, emphasizes the importance of states going on record with their strategies to promote learning and accountability in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Several states, such as California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, already have existing laws addressing transportation emissions, providing a strong foundation for their CRP strategies. Washington, for example, builds upon its 2021 State Energy Strategy, while Oregon’s strategy evolves from a 2013 carbon reduction plan and an updated statewide transportation strategy. By leveraging existing initiatives, these states are at the forefront of climate ambition and provide vital inspiration for other states.

    Florida, led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, is an example of a state embracing the CRP despite political differences over climate-related measures. Florida plans to invest its $320.4 million in transportation funding from the CRP to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, enhance the use of low-emission vehicles and travel modes, and utilize construction techniques with lower emissions. The state also aims to address the critical shortage of safe truck parking areas, which is considered a national safety concern by federal agencies.

    Other states, such as Maryland, prioritize increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road as their primary strategy. They also focus on reducing overall traffic by investing in public transportation and improving infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users. According to Deron Lovaas, Maryland Department of Transportation’s Environment and Sustainable Transportation program leader, these small changes can have a significant cumulative effect in reducing emissions.

    The CRP faces some challenges as states have the flexibility to shift up to 50% of the carbon reduction funding to other federally supported transportation projects that don’t explicitly focus on greenhouse gas reduction. Climate activists and progressive transportation planners express disappointment when states divert funding away from carbon reduction efforts. Nevertheless, states also have the option to transfer money from other federal programs into the CRP, providing temporary measures while they define their emission-cutting priorities.

    Overall, the CRP presents an opportunity to make substantial progress in reducing transportation emissions. While it may be a relatively modest program compared to other infrastructure investments, its focus on transportation alternatives and emission reduction maximizes the impact of limited funds. It remains crucial for states to outline their strategies to foster learning, collaboration, and accountability in the quest to decarbonize transportation.

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