Losing federal funding: What does it mean?

If you’re tuned into this blog, then you likely are aware of the recent threat from Washington to valuable bicycle and pedestrian programs (see the PCC alert sent last Thursday). If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll taken a moment to contact your member of Congress and ask that they recommend that these programs not be slashed.

Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering, why and what does it mean?

Here’s the scoop. Every six years, Congress re-visits the country’s transportation and infrastructure priorities, and funds projects that shape our communities. However, on September 30, 2009, this six year legislation expired and has since been renewed with short-term extensions that are detrimental to our economy and public safety. In the words of Transportation 4 America, “it’s time to let Congress know we’re keeping track of their continued delays and we’re tired of watching them simply extend America’s out-dated transportation policy.”

What happened last week, which sent shock waves to the bicycling and walking community nationally, was a proposal for the next six year transportation legislation–a proposal that devastates biking and walking programs that have been in place for many years. This proposed six year surface transportation re-authorization bill was submitted by the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica (R-FL).

In a press release submitted shortly after the draft bill was released, the League of American Bicyclists‘ President Andy Clarke closely scruitizines the misguided direction of Mica’s bill:

Whether the next transportation bill is $200 billion or $400 billion is frankly less important than what is done with that kind of investment. Mica’s ‘New Direction’ proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American’s real choices. Even with a ’small’ bill, returning to a 1950’s highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can’t even afford to maintain, let alone build.

The League calls on Chairman Mica to reinstate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking in his bill. We also ask that the Senate resist the efforts of Senator Inhofe eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. In addition to being healthy activities, bicycling and walking are valid transportation options, with more than four billion bike trips made annually for trips to work, school, and tourism. Furthermore bicycling and walking projects have the potential to create 46 percent more jobs per million dollars spent than auto-only projects; and bicycling and walking are critical generators of economic activity in communities across this country. Now is the time to be investing in these modes, not cutting them off just as 20 years of investment is starting to bear fruit.

Under Mica’s proposal, not only will we lose these valuable programs, but we will also lose our go-to people at state DOT’s–the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator may no longer be a mandated position. In South Carolina, we would say goodbye to our lone soldier, Tom Dodds.

If you haven’t already, please contact your member of Congress, and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. South Carolina dedicates little of it’s own funding to exclusive bicycle projects, and is the #2 most dangerous place in the nation to ride a bike. This plan, if enacted, would devastate the already dire bicycling and walking conditions that exist.

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