Happy to report that the House budget does not contain the Senate provision that threatened the NCDOT Planning Grant program that benefits our communities, especially the smaller towns.
This issue will now be part of the Conference Committee discussions between the House and the Senate budget. Stay tuned to see the Conference Committee appointments and we will need your help in talking with these legislators to shore up support to protect the planning grant program.
As a reminder, the Senate Budget Bill, SB 257, has a pedestrian provision that concerns the planning grant program. It appears to require municipalities to return planning funding if any project, identified in the application for planning grant funds, is not built within 6 years. Here is a link to the full text of the provision.
It is important to note that in order for municipalities to get a project in the STIP/TIP for Prioritization, the project must be identified in an approved Plan. The NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program has helped small towns across the state be better prepared for the STI process. A small town may not have the financial capability to immediately start construction of all of the projects identified. Thus, small towns and rural areas would be affected disproportionately by this provision. Larger municipalities however also take advantage of this program, so it could effect all our towns. We want all our towns to benefit from walkable, bicycle-friendly community development.
The RPO Association has passed a resolution against this Senate provision. The RPOs have worked with many of our small towns across the state to help them apply and then develop plans for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programming for their communities using planning grant funds from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Division of NCDOT. Most of those towns have had success in implementing pieces of those plans, though none has been able to implement all of their projects, especially within a timeframe of six years. The threat of having to return the grant funds would discourage towns from participating.
The Bike and Pedestrian planning documents are a 20-year vision and help leverage public and private dollars. Expecting these projects to be constructed in six years is unrealistic. We hope the Senate provision with not be included in the final budget so that this important grant program is not