How do I tap into CMAQ funding for my bicycle/pedestrian project?

Program Overview

The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program was created in 1991 under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) to fund transportation related projects that are designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. CMAQ has seven major project categories:

  1. Transit
  2. Shared Ride
  3. Traffic Flow Improvements
  4. Demand Management
  5. Pedestrian/Bicycle
  6. Inspection/Maintenance (I/M) and other Transportation Control Measures (TCMs)
  7. Surface Transportation Program (STP)/CMAQ

Pedestrian and bicycle projects are their own major product category and make up approximately 13 percent of CMAQ projects. Walking and bicycling can also be included in other project categories such as transit by providing bike racks at public transportation stops.


CMAQ Improvement Program funds are available to a wide range of government and non-profit organizations, as well as private entities contributing to public/private partnerships. They are controlled by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and state departments of transportation. Often, these organizations plan or implement their own air quality programs besides approving CMAQ funds for other projects. Funding is available for areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (nonattainment areas) as well as former nonattainment areas that are now in compliance (maintenance areas). CMAQ-funded projects may include bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements, bicycle racks and lockers, and individualized marketing initiatives that promote bicycling and walking.

Organizations that want access to CMAQ funds must first ask their MPO to place the project on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). This process varies among MPOs and it is recommended that groups contact their MPO with their suggestions for CMAQ projects. Some MPOs have approved funding for transit promotion programs and message boards announcing ozone alerts and traffic congestion, but rejected funding for programs to promote bicycling and walking. This inequitable approach misses an important opportunity to shift mode share for the majority of short trips which could be done on foot or by bike.

Project Ideas and Examples

Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) "Final Program Guidance for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users" provided several examples of eligible nonmotorized CMAQ activities to be:

  • Constructing bicycle and pedestrian facilities (paths, bike racks, support facilities, etc.) that are not exclusively recreational and reduce vehicle trips
  • Non-construction outreach related to safe bicycle use
  • Establishing and funding State bicycle/pedestrian coordinator positions for promoting and facilitating nonmotorized transportation modes through public education, safety programs, etc. (Limited to one full-time position per State)

CMAQ-funded bicycle/pedestrian projects can be based around efforts such as bike parking, pedestrian and bicycling promotion, sidewalk or pedestrian improvements and enhancements, bike maps and planning, and education efforts. Bicycle and pedestrian projects often work to improve mobility and access while also improving safety. These projects can help reduce the need for automobiles and provide safe connections for walkers and bikers. Several examples from around the US for CMAQ-funded bicycle/pedestrian projects include:

  • Rolling Meadows, Illinois: Rolling Meadows created a downtown redevelopment plan that would work to improve lighting and connectivity of a fragmented series of bike paths.
  • Fort Collins, Colorado: Fort Collins developed a bicycle library for bike sharing which allowed residents to borrow bicycles at no cost from two locations. The project was estimated to reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 759 kilograms in the first year.
  • Long Beach, California: The Long Beach Bikestation project provided a transfer point for riders on transit light rail lines and provided mechanics on site, bike rental center, and bike lockers.

More Information

The League of American Bicyclists' CMAQ report provides a chart providing project ideas by type, location, and description:

Program details may be found at

An overview of federal policies and programs that affect bicycle/pedestrian projects is available here: