State News

Welch bill would boost federal funding for Vermont trails

Thundering Brook Trail

On Thursday, Feb. 6, Representative Peter Welch introduced bipartisan legislation that will more than double funding for the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

Since 1991, RTP has provided funding to states to develop and maintain outdoor recreational trails, allowing millions of Americans and their families to enjoy activities such as hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ATV driving.

The bill preserves the current formula for distributing RTP funds, which distributes half of the funds equally among all states, ensuring that small states like Vermont receive sufficient funding. In 2019, Vermont received $1,028,010 in RTP funds.

“Vermont has unparalleled natural beauty that provides Vermonters and tourists alike year-round opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Welch. “Boosting federal funding for this important program will ensure that Vermonters will experience the joy of hiking and exploring our scenic trails for many years to come.”

Welch’s bill will more than double RTP funding to at least $250 million. The program is modeled after the Highway Trust Fund and is funded through taxes paid on gasoline used to fuel snowmobiles, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles that do not use highways. The program is currently funded at $84 million annually, which is substantially less than is collected in taxes on fuel used by these vehicles.

The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020:

Requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to estimate the amount of gas taxes paid by non-highway recreational users. A dated estimate suggests that users pay more than $270 million in gasoline taxes.

Increases RTP funding from $84 million to $250 million or the mandated new FHWA estimate, whichever is higher.

Increases the transparency of the programs funded by RTP.

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