Paying for Bicycle Facilities in Wisconsin

Bicycle & Pedestrian Funding

Funding for bicycle infrastructure is a core component of our advocacy agenda. Bicycle infrastructure in Wisconsin is often viewed as a luxury or an afterthought, to be included only when the infrastructure for motor vehicles has been completed and perfected. Consequently, bicycle funding is often one of the first items in our state’s budget to get eliminated whenever money gets tight.At the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, we couldn’t disagree more. That’s why educating our state’s elected officials, planners and engineers on the importance of a well-funded bicycle infrastructure is a top priority for us. We believe that Wisconsinites should have freedom of choice in transportation.A well-funded bicycle infrastructure gives people the choice to spend less on transportation - saving money on gas, insurance and automobile maintenance when they substitute some car trips with bicycle trips. It allows people to pursue a lifetime of health, fitness and self-improvement. The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin is committed to securing increased bicycle funding, and continuing to educate our leaders about the value and return on investment for bicycle infrastructure funding.Visit our Legislative Sucesses page to learn about the $5 million in increased bicycle funding that the Bike Fed helped secure for Wisconsin in the state’s 2009-2011 biennial budget. 

Overview of Bicycle Funding Sources
Bicycle facilities, both on-street and off, are funding through a variety of sources. Eligibility for most federal aid programs for bicycle infrastructure is determined by the transportation component, rather than the recreational component, of the project. A notable exception to this rule is the Recreational Trails Program.

State funding for the construction of bicycle facilities both on-street and off is available through programs administered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), and includes funds provided directly by the state, as well as “pass-through” funds provided by the federal government. 

Please click on a sub-category to the left to learn more about various types of bicycle funding.

Bicycle & Pedestrian Funding : Transportation-based Funding

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program (BPFP) funds projects that construct or plan for bicycle or bicycle/pedestrian facilities. Approved projects are reimbursable at 80% of the cost, and a local match of 20% is required.

In the 2009-2011 biennial budget, the BPFP received $5 million in state funding thanks to the efforts of bicycling supporters throughout the state. This is in addition to the $2.72M in federal funding that the BPFP receives each year. The BPFP is managed in conjunction with the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program (see below).

Additional information is available on the WisDOT website about funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, including information about other assistance programs and past projects.

Contact: John Duffe, WisDOT or call (608) 264-8723. 

Transportation Enhancement Program

Transportation Enhancements are transportation-related, community-based projects that are designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of transportation systems. The federal Transportation Enhancements program provides funding for the implementation of a wide variety of non-traditional projects ranging from the restoration of historic transportation facilities to improved bike and pedestrian facilities. Transportation enhancements are part of the Wisconsin’s Statewide Multi-modal Improvement Program (SMiP), which provides an 80% reimbursement for approved projects. A local match of 20% of the project’s cost is also required.

A majority of the TE grants awarded in Wisconsin have been for bicycle facilities, including multiuse trails, paved shoulders, bike lanes, bicycle route signage, bicycle parking, overpasses/underpasses/bridges and sidewalks.

In order to qualify for TE funds, a project must relate to surface transportation. Federal regulations restrict the use of funds on trails allowing motorized users, with the exception of snowmobiles. The Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) specified that safety and educational activities for pedestrians and bicyclists are eligible for transportation enhancements funding.

While TE is a federally-funded program, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is responsible for the administration of the program locally. Local governments, community organizations and non-profit groups can submit proposals to WisDOT for evaluation. Successful applications must demonstrate how the project relates to surface transportation. Also, it is extremely important to show how the remaining 20% of the project will be funded.

The TE program is a great opportunity for local bicycle supporters to make great things happen in their communities.

Wisconsin TE Contacts:
Jill Mrotek Glenzinski,WisDOT SE Region Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, 262-548-8794
John Duffe,TE Program Manager, 608-264-8723. 

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program

The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program funds projects and programs aimed at reducing automobile travel and/or emissions in areas that have failed to meet air quality standards for ozone, carbon monoxide, and small particulate matter. More than $8.6 billion was authorized nationally over the last five-year funding period (2005-2009) nationally.

The funds are only available in the southeastern Wisconsin ozone non-attainment and maintenance counties: Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Door.

Contact: John Duffe, WisDOT, 608-264-8723 

Highway Safety Improvement Program

Bicycle and pedestrian projects are eligible for the Highway Safety Improvement Program. This program focuses on projects intended for locations that have a documented history of previous crashes.

A list of regional coordinators for the program is available here. 

Safe Routes to School Program

Safe Routes to School programs are federally funded, locally administered programs that encourage children ages K-8 to walk and bike to school. SRTS Programs create safer walking and biking routes, improve walking and biking travel options, promote healthier lifestyles in children at an early age and decrease auto-related emissions near schools.

Contact WisDOT’s SRTS Coordinator, Renee Callaway, 608-266-3973. 

Incidental Improvements

Bicycle and pedestrian projects are broadly eligible for funding from most of the major federal-aid programs. One of the most cost-effective ways of accommodating bicycle and pedestrian accommodations is to incorporate them as part of larger reconstruction, new construction and some repaving projects. Generally, the same source of funding can be used for the bicycle and pedestrian accommodation as is used for the larger highway improvement, if the bike or pedestrian accommodation is “incidental” in scope and cost to the overall project. Overall, most bicycle and pedestrian accommodations within the state are made as incidental improvements.
Bicycle & Pedestrian Funding : Recreation-based Funding
Funding for the Recreational Trails Program is provided through federal gas excise taxes paid on fuel used by off-highway vehicles. Towns, villages, cities, counties, tribal governing bodies, school districts, state agencies, federal agencies and incorporated organizations are eligible to receive reimbursement for development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses. Eligible sponsors may be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of the total project costs. Eligible projects include:

  • Maintenance and restoration of existing trails
  • Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages
  • Construction of new trails, with certain restrictions on Federal lands
  • Acquisition of easement or property for trails
  • Rehabilitation of existing trails
  • Trail maintenance
  • Trail development
  • Trail acquisition

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regional staff reviews all submitted project proposals. Each proposal is given a rank, and the highest ranking projects receive funding. More information is available on the DNR Web site.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

2 thoughts on “Paying for Bicycle Facilities in Wisconsin

  1. Perhaps the Bike Federation could be of service by first learning why there fewer DOT dollars being used in Wisconsin for Bike Trails. It may not be because no one wants to build them. It may be that those who do want to build trails find the DOT process like riding a bike with two flat tires up hill, in a head wind with rain, And that’s being very kind.
    Maybe collect some data, like have their continued to be an increase in the number of requests? Have most of those been with municpalities with with enough staff to deal with the grant process, or those who have community volunteers carring the load? Which source has gone up in requests and which are going down? And, interview all the people from all the groups (municpalities) that have revieved a grant in the past three years about what has been their experience.
    It seems to me, the DOT runs the building a bike trail the same as building an interstate highway.
    An advocacy opportunity would be to do some basic research on what are the reasons behind the non-use of available funds. To say it’s just attitude not in support of bike trails is a very limited view.Perhaps the reason(s) lie in the system and processes for providing the funding.
    I could go on and on, but I’m working on building a bike trail, so got to go!


  2. Gary,

    If you are involved in building a bicycle trail with state or federal funds, and you are going through the WisDOT process, probably through a master consultant, then I think I know exactly where you are coming from. You are correct that the process is so difficult, takes so long, and costs so much, that many projects are not getting built. It does seem crazy that a little bike trail should have to go through virtually the same process as an interstate highway.

    I used to work for the City of Milwaukee DPW, and I can tell you from years of first hand experience, that the process has become much more difficult, costs more, and takes longer, with the new master consultant process. Going through the old process used to be difficult, but now it is getting close to impossible. If it is any comfort, the process to build arterial roads has gotten just as tough and those projects are all being delayed too.

    We have talked about this problem with federal and state representatives, but to no avail. One would have thought that using private consultants would have made things move faster and cost less. The reason why that didn’t happen are somewhat complicated.

    This is worth an entire blog post all on its own, but it is a little outside the Bike Fed’s mission to reform the entire transportation system ;) If you want to get more of my perspective on this issue, you can call me at the Milwaukee office. I am extension 10.

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