Federal Bill Threatens Biking and Walking Programs

Yesterday, leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unveiled their new plan for transportation in America. The proposal calls for the elimination of dedicated funding for biking and walking programs across the country.

In the proposal titled "A New Direction," Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) suggested that these programs serve no federal or national purpose.

In a press release for the proposal the Committee states, "Congress will not support a gas tax increase, and this proposal does not raise taxes. Without an increase in revenue, other current options, such as a two-year bill, the Administrations’ proposal, or extending expired law at the current funding levels, all lead to the Highway Trust Fund going broke by 2013."

In the Senate, James Inhofe of Oklahoma is pursuing a similar goal. Inhofe, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that one of his top-three priorities for the next multi-year federal transportation bill is to eliminate “frivolous spending for bike trails.”

The answer to budget deficits, as Mica and Inhofe see it, is to reform U.S. surface transportation programs by consolidating or eliminating approximately 70 programs that are duplicative or do not serve a federal purpose.

Three programs likely to get the ax? Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and Recreational Trails, all of which have encouraged Americans to complete 12 percent of their trips by bicycling or walking, improving family health, and reducing harmful fossil fuel emissions.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, the proposal would also eliminate the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. The NTPP was a cornerstone of the previous transportation bill and it provided $25 million to four communities to develop cycling and walking facilities.

The House proposal would also cut 25 percent from Amtrak's federal operating subsidy and eliminate a $100 million a year Intercity Passenger Rail grants program. 

Wondering what the proposal actually would allow?

The proposal states that "nearly all" Federal Highway Program funding will go to states through programs designed to "preserve existing highways, build new highway capacity, and address congestion, freight mobility, and highway safety." It would also remove existing barriers in order to allow more private corporations to offer public transit services.

Why would the Committee introduce such a bill when enthusiasm for alternative transportation is at an all time high? If saving money is the ultimate goal, why not invest more money in infrastructure for biking and walking: two activities that are affordable, healthy, and take almost no toll on the environment?

If you prefer to live in bikeable, walkable cities, and want the government to invest your tax dollars into bike lanes, greenways, cycling education and pedestrian-friendly walkways, it's time to speak up.

PeopleforBikes.org is asking Americans to reach out to the two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative who represent you in Congress. Ask them to support ongoing, dedicated funding for biking and walking in the next transportation bill.   

Click here to review clear, basic, suggested text for your email. Feel free to customize it and/or add a personal story.)

Sources: Bike Portland, PeopleforBikes.org

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