The road to funding has gotten considerably bumpier for some American archeologists and environmental researchers. President Barack Obama on Friday signed a major new transportation funding bill that extensively reworks—and cuts—a little-known program that has paid for hundreds of field research projects over the last few decades.
The $101 billion measure, formally known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), reauthorizes federal funding for road and transit projects over the next 2 years. It is the product of a long and contentious debate in Congress that included efforts to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements program (TEP), which for about 2 decades has required states to spend a small portion of their federal transport funds on 12 types of activities, including bike and walking paths, but also "archaeological planning & research," and "environmental mitigation." Between 1992 and 2011, the program fed more than $50 million to archeology and environmental research efforts, helping fund about 200 projects. But some lawmakers argued the nation couldn't afford such spending at a time when roads and bridges were crumbling.