A recent transport law will make securing funding for projects more difficult for American archaeologists. On Friday, President Obama signed a major new transportation funding bill that extensively reworks and cuts “Transportation Enhancements Program” (TEP), a program that has been in place for 20 years that requires states to spend small portions of their federal transport funds on twelve types of activities, including “archaeological planning and research,” as well as on “environmental mitigation.” Between 1992 and 2011, the program provided more than $50 million to archaeological expeditions and research, helping to fund over 200 projects. However, there has been a long debate over this issue, as some lawmakers feel that the government should be spending its funds on deteriorating roads and bridges, rather than on archaeological research.

Ultimately, Congress decided to replace TEP with a new program. “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) reauthorizes federal funding for road and transit projects over the next two years and combines TEP with several other programs. MAP-21 also gives state governments greater authority over spending, including the right to divert up to half their funding to other transportation projects. It also cuts the total funding available by one third–to $800 million per year. Additionally, the new law also narrows the definition of archaeological projects eligible for funding, requiring them to be “related to transportation projects” and broadens the eligibility of environmental projects. Analysts say that many more potential projects will be competing for a smaller pot of funds.

Source: The Science Insider