The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program
Ask your average bicyclist what “MTB” or “GPS” or “SAG” acronyms stand for and you’re likely to get a quick and possibly even accurate answer. But ask a cyclist what “CMAQ” stands for, and you’ll likely get a blank stare, even though (as the quote from Chicago’s bicycle coordinator that serves as this blog post’s title hints at), it’s (potentially) one of the most important bicycling-related acronyms out there. Here it is: “CMAQ” = Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality. It refers to a U.S. government program, established in 1991, specifically to support surface transportation projects that either improve air quality, provide congestion relief, or both.
In the 20 years that Delaware has been receiving (hundreds of millions of) federal CMAQ dollars, however, we have not spent a single penny from the CMAQ program on bicycling-related projects. Not one penny.*** Why is this? Is it because the federal government discourages or forbids using CMAQ funds for bicycling projects? No. In fact, the opposite is true. If you go to the U.S. government’s CMAQ web site, there is a photo gallery where they show 616 pictures of all the great projects – in many different eligible categories – that have been completed with CMAQ funding. Of the 616 photos, 129 are of bike/ped projects.
No, the problem has not been with the federal government. The problem has been on our end. For a bike/ped project to be eligible for federal CMAQ funds, the state has to be willing to put up 20% of the total cost of the project and, between 1991 and 2010, Delaware hasn’t been willing to do that. That is, we haven’t been willing to do that until two weeks ago, when the Delaware General Assembly voted $5,000,000 for state bike routes, every dollar of which is potentially leverageable with $4 of federal CMAQ funds.
Our elected officials, especially Senator Venables and Governor Markell, have shown visionary leadership by recognizing the immense return on public investment that investing in walking and bicycling provide. But to maximize the state’s investment, we must access the federal matching funds which we are – now – eligible for. We look forward to seeing whether our new transportation Secretary recognizes, and seizes, the opportunity that the General Assembly has just handed to him. The Delaware General Assembly has emphatically declared – twice! – in recent weeks that Delaware is in a new era for bicycling. First, in May, the General Assembly passed “Walkable, Bikeable Delaware“. Then in June, it voted $5,000,000 in new money for bicycling. Now all we need is for DelDOT to start pedaling!
If you would like to learn more about CMAQ or anything else related to Walkable, Bikeable Delaware, email email@example.com.
*** As of July 18, 2011 – when this was originally posted – this was true. The WILMAPCO Council approved Delaware’s 1st ever CMAQ-funded bike project less than two months later (September of 2011).
*** On July 14, 2012, WILMAPCO approved a 2nd use of the federal CMAQ program for cycling projects.