Senate Health Bill Approved: What it Means for Transportation

After 14 months of drama, deal-making, and declarations of its demise, the health care legislation envisioned by President Obama and congressional Democrats finally cleared its biggest hurdle last night, with the House approving the Senate-passed measure on a 219-212 vote.

crosswalkphoto.jpgSafe Routes to School programs, such as this one, could see a boost from the health bill's grant program. (Photo: CA DOT)

The process isn't quite finished yet -- the Senate still must take up a series of tweaks to its original bill under the filibuster-proof reconciliation framework for debate -- but the meat of the upper chamber's health proposal is set to become law by week's end.

Once that occurs, a new pool of federal "Community Transformation" grants would be established, with local governments and nonprofit groups eligible for a share of the funding. As Streetsblog Capitol Hill noted back in November, the grants would go towards projects that support public health, including "activities to prevent chronic diseases" and "the infrastructure to support active living."

In practice, that could result in new funding available for bike-ped improvements or programs that encourage safe transportation for young students, such as Safe Routes to School.

The Senate bill also recognizes transportation's role in public health by giving the U.S. DOT a seat on a new National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council that would coordinate federal wellness policy.