Improved Opportunities for Corps Created by New Surface Transportation Legislation

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law P.L. 112-141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2014, MAP-21 is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005.  MAP-21 takes effect on October 1, 2012.

MAP-21 establishes a new program to provide for a variety of alternative transportation projects that were previously eligible activities under separately funded programs. This program is funded at a level equal to two percent of the total of all MAP-21 authorized Federal-aid highway and highway research funds, with the amount for each State set aside from the State’s formula apportionments. Eligible activities include:

• Transportation alternatives (new definition incorporates many transportation enhancement activities and several new activities)

• Recreational trails program (program remains unchanged)

• Safe routes to schools program

• Planning, designing, or constructing roadways within the right-of way of former Interstate routes or other divided highways.

Unless a State opts out, it must use a specified portion of its TA funds for recreational trails projects.

Thanks to hard work by The Corps Network and several of our members, the new law includes several provisions that are beneficial to Corps, if not putting them at a big advantage. Essentially, MAP-21 provides exceptions to certain requirements regarding pay rates and contracting requirements for projects using contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth service or conservation corps.  The new law includes language that:

• Defines youth service and conservation corps

• Encourages states and regional transportation planning agencies to enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with qualified youth service and conservation corps under the National Scenic Byways Program, Recreational Trails Program, Transportation Alternatives Program, Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways, and the Safe Routes to School Program

• Sets that any project carried out by a qualified youth service or conservation corps will be subject to the living allowance or rate of pay that is established by the Secretary.  Any project that is carried out within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway will be subject to this special rate of pay as opposed to the prevailing minimum wage rate.  The legislation also exempts contracts and cooperative agreements with youth service and conservation corps from Federal-aid highway program contracting requirements, which allows a State or regional transportation planning agency to sole-source contracts and cooperative agreements to qualified youth service and conservation corps for working undertaken for byway, recreational trail, TA, bicycle and pedestrian, or SRTS projects.

For more information on MAP-21 please visit the Federal Highway Administration MAP-21 summary on the Use of Youth Service and Conservation Corps.