Summit takes action to protest Senate transportation bill

On Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works released its draft proposal to drastically alter and reduce the way the federal government helps fund state and local bicycling projects and programs.

This proposal is one part of a comprehensive rewrite of the federal transportation bill, which expired several years ago and has been reauthorized numerous times. After many months of debate about how to proceed with federal transportation funding, this proposal is a step toward actual legislation. It’s expected to undergo considerable debate and amendment over the next year.

Below is an overview of the proposed changes, prepared by  Transportation for America. The biggest impacts to bicycling and pedestrian programs and infrastructure come from changes to the Surface Transportation Program or STP, which contains the Transportation Enhancements or TE program, under which bike-ped programs and infrastructure are funded. The proposed legislation would combine the TE portion with several other program areas unrelated to bicycling and walking. (click graphic to enlarge)











This analysis  of the proposal demonstrates the potential impacts to TE-funded programs under the proposed legislation. Those impacts fall into three areas:

1)  Competition with highways:   Bicycle and pedestrian programs which currently receive their own dedicated funding–including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails–would be lumped together into an “Additional Activities” pot of funding, along with expensive highway projects, wetlands mitigation and environmental mitigation.

2)  Less funding:   While many new expensive uses were added to the “Additional Activities” pot, the funding level for the entire pot is equal to the Fiscal Year 2009 levels for Transportation Enhancements, which is less than 1% of the entire bill. This represents a 30% cut just for Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails, and does not factor in any additional funding for all the new types of projects now eligible.

3)  Optout provision:   The bill provides an incentive for states to not spend the “Additional Activities” funding.   If states do not spend this funding for 18 months, they can then redirect the funds to any program eligible as part of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality.

On Nov. 6, the California Bicycle Coalition issued a  press release  and launched a social media campaign to denounce the bill.






Thanks to  this early pressure, amendments on Nov. 9 removed  some of the competiting road projects from the funding pot (see side-by-side analysis for more about amendments), however, Senators added a provision forcing bicyclists of roads and onto adjacent bikeways on federal lands. The League of American Bicyclists has launched a  petition campaign  calling for removal of the mandatory side-path provision.