policy and advocacy
Issue Brief - Transportation Enhancements Program
U.S. Department of Transportation
Enhancing Communities' Infrastructure through the Arts
We urge Congress to:
- Reauthorize the Transportation Equity Act, including the popular and effective Transportation Enhancements Program. Without the full six-year reauthorization it is harder for state and local agencies to plan and implement projects in an orderly and timely manner. The sooner Congress completes the ful, six-year reauthorization the better.
Interstates and highways connect us physically, but heritage and culture connect us as a people. The Transportation Enhancements (TE) Program is a crucial part of maintaining both of these connections in a meaningful way. Integrating arts and artists into the American landscape both increases access to our nation’s talents and story and brings added economic and cultural value to every American’s quality of life. The enhancements provisions of the Transportation Equity Act (TEA-21) provide a unique opportunity for state and local departments of transportation to work in partnership with state and local arts agencies and humanities councils to design and build community projects eligible for TE support. Examples of such projects include:
- Artist residencies that enable artists to apply their skills to transforming streetscapes, bridges, sound walls, trails, interchanges and other transportation features into community landmarks.
- Colorado’s America the Beautiful Trail engaged teams of visual artists, poets, trail representatives and local residents to develop art benches incorporating visual and literary elements illustrating the history and culture of this 76-mile trail.
- West Memphis Revitalization, Arkansas commissioned artists, landscapers, and electricians to restore the main street facilities providing greenery, public art space and increased public access.
- Cultural Corridor Project, New Mexico used nearly $1 million in TE funds to enhance and celebrate the communities along historic Route 66, “The Mother Road” (I-40), and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (I-25). Artists built unique and popular structures along these routes.
- Missouri-Yellowstone River Confluence Center, North Dakota allows visitors the magnificent view Lewis and Clark enjoyed in the 1800s and provides transportation artifacts and interpretation.
Since Congress enacted Transportation Enhancements in 1991, more than $2.4 billion has been invested around the country in facilities for walking and bicycling, historic preservation, land acquisition, beautification, environmental mitigation, and transportation museums. In 1998 the TE program was reauthorized in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century ensuring that $620 million in annual TEA-21 funds were made available through 2003 to state transportation agencies for 12 types of transportation-related projects. TEA-21 expired on September 30, 2003 and the current extension runs through May 31, 2005. Support for the enhancements program is strong. In 2003, the House defeated an attempt to kill TE funding by an overwhelming vote of 327-90 (Roll Call 469).