The federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program, began as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). CMAQ funds are used to pay for transportation projects that improve air quality in “non-attainment” and “maintenance” areas — those areas where the EPA considers air quality to be poor, or where there have been air quality problems in the past. The Kansas City region is technically an attainment area at this time but experienced three violations of the EPA standard for ground-level ozone in 2007. Continued violations could put the region's clean air status in jeopardy. This situation has heightened the importance of making transportation investments that reduce emissions from cars and trucks to the greatest possible extent.
Distribution of funds
The national distribution of CMAQ funds is based on a formula that takes into account the population and severity of air quality status for each area. As the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Kansas City area, MARC is responsible for choosing which projects within the five-county metropolitan area (see map below) will receive CMAQ funds.