According to Congressional insiders, members of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works are meeting today and tomorrow to hash out the details of their proposal for a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill. Hanging in the balance of these negotiations may be the federal government’s only programs dedicated to funding infrastructure for biking and walking.
Advocates are rallying supporters to contact Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-California), and urge her and other senators to retain federal funding for bike and pedestrian programs.
Jeffrey Miller, president of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, says this marks an urgent opportunity to preserve funding for those important programs. “Senator Boxer is frankly our last hope,” said Miller. “If we don’t act now, dedicated funding for biking and walking programs may be written out of our transportation system for the next six years.”
The Senate occupies the key middle ground between the House GOP and the White House. House Transportation Chair John Mica (R-Florida) has indicated his desire to eliminate the federal commitment to bike-ped funding. While the Obama administration has repeatedly signaled its support for bike-ped programs under the banner of livability, if dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian projects isn’t preserved in the Senate version of the bill, there is little hope that they will reemerge in the conference committee process and get into the final bill, Miller said.
Biking and walking advocates are concerned that Boxer, who has generally been a supporter, is being pressured to compromise and eliminate the programs, said Miller. Both the Alliance and the League of American Bicyclists are calling on their members to email Boxer, thank her for her past support and urge her to continue federal support for bicycle and pedestrian programs.
“At this very moment, she is negotiating with other senators who don’t think bicycling and walking are an important part of the transportation bill,” said Miller. “She needs to know we have her back on this issue and she shouldn’t give up on these crucial programs.”
“Transportation Enhancements, Safety Routes to School, and Recreational Trails are important programs for transportation, safety, and health that have a huge impact on the funding available for bicycling and walking projects,” said Bike League director Andy Clarke. “It is critical that these programs are included in the Senate draft. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to add them later in the process.”