Strike Three: Another Senator Takes Another Swipe At Bike-Ped Funding

Last month, the Senate’s notorious vote-blocker, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, tried to obstruct Senate process until they voted on his measure to take bike/ped funding out of the transportation bill. He failed.

Sen. Rand Paul is trying to strip bike/ped programs out of the federal transportation bill in the name of bridge repair. Photo: ##http://themoderatevoice.com/104527/rand-paul-pondering-presidential-run/##Moderate Voice##

Then last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested keeping bike/ped money but stripping out lots of other budget items that serve cyclists and pedestrians (as well as everybody else), like streetscaping. He failed too.

And now here comes Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the kookiest of Congress’s Tea Party-affiliated newcomers, with a brilliant idea to shift all bike/ped funding — and everything else that gets funded through the embattled Transportation Enhancement program — over to bridge repair. Paul characterizes TE as a fund for “turtle tunnels and squirrel sanctuaries and all this craziness.”

Now, we’re all in favor of bridge repair. We agree that the crumbling of our nation’s infrastructure is shameful and dangerous. But really, you’re going to restore bridge safety by cutting bike safety? Get real, Senator.

Paul’s spooky amendment is scheduled for a vote the day after Halloween. It’ll be attached to the Senate transportation appropriations bill, which comes up for a vote that day by the full chamber.

Darren Flusche of the League of American Bicyclists noted in his blog post that Sen. Paul should let the Senate EPW Committee, which has jurisdiction over writing the next transportation bill, do its job. Flusche argues that the committee’s November 9 bill markup “would be the appropriate time to discuss changes to the overall transportation program, not during the appropriations process.”

Transportation for America recently criticized Sen. Paul for his misguided attack on active transportation:

Kentucky doesn’t have more than 1,300 deficient bridges today because they spent a few million dollars making their streets safer for people walking or biking. If Senator Paul’s proposal became law and the 1.5 percent [of transportation funding for bike/ped programs] was directed into bridge repair, it would take Paul’s home state of Kentucky nearly 66 years with those funds to repair of all its bridges that are currently rated as deficient. And that doesn’t even account for the bridges that would be added to the “deficient” list in the years to come. (Kentucky has more than 4,500 bridges over 50 years old. That number could double by 2030.)

Clearly, we need far more money to repair our bridges, but we lack policies that hold states accountable for fixing their bridges. The current federal program has money dedicated for bridge repair, but allows states to divert up to half of that funding to build other more politically-driven projects.

There are ways to address this problem. States like Florida have put in place fiscally responsible policies to take care of what they’ve already built, balancing the need to fix bridges and build new roads. And Florida’s bridges are among the best in the country. Florida has both spent their “enhancement” funds and ensured their bridges are in good shape. Why can’t Kentucky and other states say the same?

  • I’m all for biking. I have two myself and see them as valuable tools and a way to keep myself and the environment healthy.

    I am not lost however.

    My bike will still work without bike paths.

    My legs will still work to carry me across roadways and through neighborhoods when I need foot exercise.

    I cannot swim across rivers, however. IT WOULD BE FOOLISH TO TRY. Nor would my bike get me across a river.

    So we need bridges. Moreso than foot trails or bicycle paths.

    I would rather spend my limited money to build or maintain my bridges. I can live without bike paths and foot trails. For someone’s quoted “80 YEARS”  if I have to.

    Thanks for thinking about it along with me.

  • Anonymous

    @yahoo-ULXTHGKOA4TKROVFQT7XFPLI7M:disqus You should read around this website a bit more to understand the other side of the issue and see how you misunderstand it. *You* may be fine riding without bike paths, but this isn’t about you … it’s about the average person and statistics. The vast majority of people will not ride their bikes unless they have safe, protected bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure. If you want to get people out of their cars, you have to give them alternatives. So without improving bicycle infrastructure, you don’t get people out of their cars. Funding bridges at the expense of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure keeps us locked in this car-dependent culture.

    And again, as the article makes clear, the money allocated to pedestrian and bike infrastructure hardly makes a dent in the total money needed to fix our bridges. That’s like cutting a few million from NPR to balance the budget which off by billions and billions.

  • PRE

    Hey if there’s limited money let’s cut the HUGE trillion dollar war budget this country maintains year after year and fund the bridges AND the bike paths (and the trains, and subways, and…)    

  • You can’t have everything. You are going to have to make some cuts. And the cuts will add up. We need to get used to it and stop cheering the media tools as if they care about this country’s finances. They don’t.

    Hopefully once we can get the trillions of dollars flowing out of this country (which fund unwanted/unneeded/unbeneficial wars at a great national cost) under control your push for green energy and bike paths can get more attention.

    I wish it was so. Unfortunately we have been pinned into a market mess. Thankfully, 200M here and 400M there and a few 50M shots add up to 1T give or take.

    Is 1T dollars not enough to start? Is it? Yes, We Can.

  • PRE, thanks. You beat me to it.

    I want to add one more thing… once we gut and cut the MIL budget (not defense) there will be more pain in the defnse contractors sector. They will invariably lose some jobs too.

    I am sorry to write that but it’s a fact.

    The good thing is that this adjustment and pain will not arrive overnight. Does not need to. What does need to happen is we the people need to keep educating and discussing these undeniable facts with our families and friends and countrymen at large — many of whom don’t realize 10% about the war monger who slipped into office under the guise of a “change agent” (I’m just about over the nausea, thanks for asking) or any of the other four or five “candidates” who are presenting the poor addled and weary minds of this nation with a confusing pile of lies and promises.

    Sound familiar? If not, WAKE UP. Please. PLEASE.

    Get ready for some pain. Take it one day at a time but don’t be surprised when it comes. And take heart in the fact that we Americans are as a whole honest, caring, and passionate followers of what we learn to be the truth and honestly the best path for our childrens’ futures.

    Spending money we don’t have isn’t it.

  • Schwinnona Rider

    Deficit war spending aside, it seems obvious to me that either the cost for maintaining the highway infrastructure, including bridge maintenance, was grossly underestimated or the infrastructure has been over built based on the amount of revenue collected to maintain it.  Either way you have a gap between maintenance costs and available money to maintain the system.  There’s probably some savings to be gained from wasteful programs like rumble strips, but probably not enough to bridge the gap.  I think you have to consider raising the gas tax and other road use fees.

    It makes little sense to try to take the 1.5 percent of the transportation budget spent on Transportation Enhancements when that money is supporting over 10% of the transportation trips which are made by bike or foot.  They call that leverage and TE provides a pretty good ratio.  It is not wasted money.  It’s multiplied money.  It’s money spent on non-environmentally impacting, healthful, non-congesting means of getting around.

  • Everyone here is for maintaining infrastructure. Some comments I see here make a false argument that the pathetically amount of money that is currently being spent on active transportation (in many cases being hard won after years of work) should be cut and that money diverted to maintenance.

    It’s a false setup, we don’t have to pick one or the other. Stop building new roads and new bridges: there’s your money. Or, as Florida has apparently done, solve the problem via legislation.

    As stated in the article, Kentucky (or any state really) could slash active transportation to the bone all it wants and it wouldn’t have any effect. It’s only ever brought up because it’s politically expedient.

  • Has bike/ped/TE become the new litmus test for the tea party caucus? 

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