Federal transportation bill a big loss for safety, jobs

Reposted from America Bikes

On Friday, Congress will vote on a new transportation bill that reverses years of progress on biking and walking policy and cuts by 60 to 70 percent funding for local safety projects such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.

For the past 20 years, a modest portion of federal transportation investments – less than 2 percent of all transportation funding – has been dedicated to biking and walking projects that make streets more accessible for everybody, reduce preventable traffic fatalities, help boost local economic development, and create construction jobs. But, despite an outpouring of support from mayors, county executives, and the American public, the deal negotiated by a small number of Congress members behind closed doors eliminates much of this popular funding.

“This new transportation bill is bad news for biking and walking,” said Caron Whitaker, campaign director of America Bikes. “Across the country, people are biking and walking more, and vehicle miles traveled are decreasing. Young people are delaying getting their driver's licenses and the real estate market shows that people want to live and work in areas where they can walk and bike safely. Yet this new bill ignores current trends and includes drastic and disproportionate cuts to biking and walking.”

“These drastic cuts to biking and walking funding do not save the federal government any money,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Rather, it keeps current levels of funding and directs funds away from street safety projects. Moreover, it's ironic that Congress is calling this a jobs bill. Biking and walking infrastructure projects create 46 percent more jobs per federal dollar than traditional road projects, yet this bill attempts to reduce the number of such projects across the country.”

“With these devastating cuts, children's lives are in danger,” said Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. “The annual cost to hospitalize children for injuries due to bicycle and pedestrian collisions is more than the entire amount of Transportation Alternatives funding in the new transportation bill, and Safe Routes to School will only get a fraction of those dollars.”

“Bicycling has developed broad and increasing support from local governments, health care leaders, small business, and, most importantly, the American people,” said Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong. “The effort to make bicycling safer and easier for all Americans-a push that includes cost-effective investments in infrastructure–will continue to grow.”

Below is the official statement of the America Bikes Coalition and Safe Routes to School National Partnership

The America Bikes coalition – representing the nation's leading bicycling and walking groups – and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership oppose the new transportation bill, which would nationally cut funding for biking and walking projects by 60 to 70 percent.

We are deeply concerned that bicycling and walking programs suffer large and disproportionate cuts in funding in the new bill. Programs that save lives and dollars are eliminated.

The full extent of cuts to biking and walking funding will be determined at the state level and may be even deeper. We will continue to work in states and local communities to support safe, accessible streets.

The new transportation bill is a bad bill for biking and walking. This bill:

Cuts available biking and walking funds by 60 to 70 percent.  Biking and walking programs are combined into a single program, Transportation Alternatives, with drastically reduced funding.

Eliminates dedicated Safe Routes to School funding.  The bill eliminates dedicated funding for the massively popular and cost-effective Safe Routes to School program, which helps make walking and biking to school safer for millions of American schoolchildren.  

Weakens local control.  The new transportation bill allows states to opt-out of half of the funds potentially available for small-scale biking and walking projects. Whereas the bi-partisan Senate bill allowed local governments and planning entities to compete for 1% of transportation funds, the new bill allows states to opt-out of the local grant program completely.

Makes biking and walking compete with new, expensive eligibilities.  Eligibilities such as road uses and environmental mitigation have been added to Transportation Alternatives, making it harder for local communities to compete for funding for local biking and walking projects.

This two-year bill represents a major step backwards in transportation policy for transportation choices and healthy physical activity. Despite this temporary setback in national policy, bicycling and walking will continue to grow and gain support, and Americans will continue to demand safer, more accessible streets and communities. Going forward, biking and walking will return to a central place in America's transportation policies and programs.