Until this year, rural communities in Louisiana had limited options for improving sidewalks. Thanks to recent changes in Louisiana’s Transportation Alternatives Program, Winnfield has received approximately $1 million dollars to improve local pedestrian infrastructure.
(Barring any unforeseen delays, work could likely begin within the next twelve months. Please read further for more program details.)
The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is a federally funded program administered through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) that focuses on creating “complete streets,” which address the needs of all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and people with disabilities. This includes building safe, accessible sidewalks that connect residents to everyday destinations like schools, grocery stores, parks, and libraries.
In a state with one of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities in the nation, this investment will help make transportation safer for residents traveling without a motor vehicle. Winnfield will use TAP funding for projects including rehabilitating or installing sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and overhead lighting as well as beautification projects along Downtown Mainstreet. This project will also serve for funding high-visibility crosswalks connecting other highly traveled routes to Main Street safely.
“The funding our city will receive is important because rural communities face the same infrastructure needs and challenges as larger cities. For some of our citizens, walking or bicycling is their only means of transportation. Disabled persons face huge challenges when getting around also. Streets will become accessible, safe, and secure for all users. This approach can promote health for all, adding an opportunity to be more physically active, which improves health and overall quality of life,” said Gerald Hamms, Mayor, City of Winnfield.
Before 2023, communities with fewer than 5,000 residents that received TAP funding had to contribute a 20% cash match in addition to covering Design and Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) costs, which average an additional 20% of project costs. This means that in the past, a $500,000 sidewalk project would cost a small town $200,000.
“With new flexibility allowed in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), our LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities team and I worked with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to make TAP a feasible funding option for rural communities,” said Jessica Stroope, LSU AgCenter physical activity specialist. “As a result, DOTD lowered the required construction match from 20% to 5% for communities under 5,000 residents and will no longer charge Design and CEI costs to communities under 50,000 residents. This means that a $500,000 sidewalk project will now cost small towns closer to $25,000.”
Brian Nunes, who oversees TAP in Louisiana, made sure that the new flexibility in the law translated into real change for Louisiana communities.
“Before we made changes to the match requirements to TAP, rural communities rarely applied. The program was out of reach, and the funds were unspent. During the previous application cycle, we only received two applications from communities of less than 5,000 citizens. Of those, one was withdrawn and one was ineligible. Because of the changes and our partnership with LSU AgCenter, during the latest application cycle we received 15 applications from those same smaller communities. Louisiana is now using all federal funding designated for rural communities for the TAP program. The new flexibility in IIJA has allowed us to address previous equity issues and to reach our rural, distressed, low-income, and transit dependent communities.”
In October 2022, representatives from Winnfield attended LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities’ Rural Complete Streets Summit. The summit matched communities with mentors, including rotations with program leaders at DOTD, to help rural communities understand and navigate the funding application process. All communities who attended the summit and submitted a TAP application received funding.
Barring any unforeseen delays, work will likely begin in the next twelve months. Keep your eyes peeled and walking shoes ready for improvements in 2024. For more information, please contact Mayor Gerald Hamms at email@example.com.