A few final notes before we all head home for the weekend…
Jonathan Maus at BikePortland just brought our attention to a recent comment we wish House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) hadn’t made. As the Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday, Rep. Mica is making noises about “siphoning away” money for bike paths. The Sentinel says Mica “wants to add flexibility to how states spend their share of federal gas taxes by cutting back on mandates. He added that states still could spend on bike paths and sidewalks if they were a priority.”
State DOTs are notoriously stingy with active transportation projects, often preferring to spend money on highways. Without federal insistence that a certain amount of money go toward bike and pedestrian programs, advocates worry that many of them will be underfunded right out of existence.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy quickly responded to Mica’s statement, saying. “It’s time to get smarter about how we build our transportation infrastructure and move away from an outdated approach to transportation investment that can be best characterized as, ‘Drive, Baby, Drive!'”
Mica will have all the support in the world from Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s new transportation secretary, Ananth Presad, who questioned last month whether “spending money on sidewalks, bike trails, beautification and other projects like this is the most prudent use of taxpayer money.”
In more news from Florida’s transportation backwater, it looks like Sec. Ray LaHood is ready to announce the final winners of the rail money Gov. Scott decided not to take. The USDOT has announced that LaHood is headed to New York and Detroit next Monday to make “a major announcement about high-speed intercity passenger rail.” We already know Illinois got $186 million of the $2.4 billion Florida was allocated. Four hundred million of that was eliminated in the FY2011 budget but USDOT still had $2 billion to play with.