This past week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, released draft language for legislation to replace the Transportation Enhancements portion of the federal transportation bill. This is one of the main federal funding sources for bicycling and pedestrian projects and programs.
Biking & walking make up almost 10% of all trips in our country, but are only given 1.2% of federal funding, making it difficult to promote these modes and further increase the health of our communities. As you can see, Transportation Enhancements (TE) accounts for almost 50% of all funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects:
The draft federal bill is disappointing, as we had expected a continuation of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funding, as promised repeatedly by Sen. Boxer. Current funding has never amounted to more than 1.5% of total federal transportation dollars, but it has produced many improvements in communities nationwide, including many in our own backyard:
- Bob Jones Trail (Connecting SLO to Avila Beach)
- Highway 1 Bike Lanes
- Bike Lanes along Quintana Rd in Morro Bay
- Bike Lanes along El Camino Real in Atascadero
- Railroad Safety Trail in San Luis Obispo
- …and many, many more
The draft bill delivers a triple whammy to bicycling and walking:
- Competition with highway funding: Bicycle and pedestrian programs (which currently receive their own dedicated funding) would be lumped together into an “Additional Activities” pot of funding, along with expensive highway projects, wetlands mitigation and environmental mitigation.
- Less funding available: The funding level for the entire “Additional Activities” pot is equal to less than 1% of the entire bill.
- Opt-out 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 redirect the funds elsewhere.
As chair of the Environment & Public Works Committee, our own Senator Boxer must fix these problems and support amendments to restore dedicated, committed funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, so we can improve safety and mobility for people who choose to walk and bike.
We thought we would let you know what’s happening on Capitol Hill, and will be sure to keep you updated on any actions you can take to help make sure biking and walking get dedicated funding in the next bill. In the meantime, spread the word to others, keep biking and walking, and we’ll see you in the bike lane!
For a side-by-side comparison of the current and the proposed bills, click here.
To read the official statement from our National partners at America Bikes, click here.