Bike/ped funding is pitching a perfect game in the Senate after Republicans swung (and missed) at the popular Transportation Enhancements program for the third time in two months. The final strike came this morning, when Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s amendment to divert all TE funds to bridge repair failed spectacularly, garnering only 38 votes in favor, with 60 senators voting against.
Paul continually asserted that the Transportation Enhancements program funds “beautification projects – such as movie theaters, squirrel sanctuaries, turtle tunnels and flower beds,” despite the fact that the program largely funds life-saving and pollution-reducing projects facilitating bicycle use and walking.
Paul had tried to present bike/ped programs and bridge safety as mutually exclusive by trying to shift money from the TE program to bridge repair. Transportation reformers (and mainstream reporters) cut right through that, showing that the money needed to fund bridge repair far outstrips what’s available in the modest TE program — and making the case that increased cycling (and decreased driving) does more to help keep bridges in good shape than this misguided amendment could ever do.
Plus, as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said on the Senate floor, Paul’s amendment could actually prevent some bridges from being fixed.
“The amendment prevents a bridge from being fixed if it is a historic bridge,” said Boxer. “There are thousands of those in this country, including the Brooklyn Bridge.” She also spoke in favor of keeping critical safety funds for bicycling.
Sen. Paul remarked after the vote that he was “disappointed” that his colleagues “failed to see” crumbling bridges, including two major ones in his home state of Kentucky, as a priority. But supporters of biking and walking infrastructure — as well as people who just care about smart funding decisions in Washington — are relieved that senators didn’t fall for the false choice Paul put before them.
Transportation for America will have a vote count online soon, so you can see how your senator voted.