Amendment to Restore Bike/Ped Programs in House Transpo Bill Fails

An amendment that would restore the popular Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements programs to the House GOP’s transportation bill has just been defeated in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a vote of 29-27. Supporters of safer biking and walking sent thousands of messages to Congress supporting this amendment in the short time that advocates had to mobilize. In the end, however, the three Republicans who joined the Democrats in favor of the amendment were not enough to deliver a majority. Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin, the amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Johnson of Illinois (a co-sponsor), and Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey were the three “yea” votes on the GOP side.

Every Democrat on the committee voted for the amendment, and at the markup session this morning Democrats Nick Rahall, Peter DeFazio, and Daniel Lipinski spoke in favor. DeFazio’s remarks were especially impassioned, telling his colleagues to “look those kids in the eye and tell them we can’t afford this program,” and characterizing the opposition as “just mean-spirited.”

Opponents of the amendment couched their arguments in terms of government reform. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) said that the bill should be “focused like a laser on the national highway system” and not dictate any other uses of transportation funds. Rep. Herrera Buetler (R-WA) said that the bill, as written, would put the power to implement bike/ped projects into the hands of authorities closer to the communities those projects would serve, saying it would “unleash” states’ ability to pursue their own priorities.

However, putting more money in the hands of the states actually keeps it further out of reach of cities and towns that want to build better streets for biking and walking. The League of American Bicyclists’ Andy Clarke, following the proceedings on Twitter, responded that Herrera Buetler and Shuster “are missing the point.” The federal government is not dictating anything, Clarke said: “States are the problem.”

  • Will

    I don’t see this as a complete catastrophe. It will require big reorganization of bike advocacy resources, moving employees and funding from the federal level to the state and local levels. The ridge rule is a mistake though, that program will always be federal, and there is a need for bike and ped access on thousands of obsolete bridges.

  • It’s not a complete catastrophe because this bill is GOP theater, not real legislation.

  • Robert

    For most States, the bike/ped funding will never occur without it being a Federal requirement.  In many States, like Missouri, the public can have no input on what the DOT actually does.  It is constitutionally seperated.  So unless the head of the DOT just happens to be a bicycling and walking fanatic, they will spend 0% of their funding on doing anything other than moving cars.

    I spent a week in Mississippi earlier this year, there wasn’t a single piece of sidewalk on any street that was controlled by the Mississippi DOT.  

    This is a complete disaster and the only hope now is that we continue to have SAFETEA-LU extensions and that the democrats regain control of the House and retain the presidency.

    This coming from someone who has almost always voted republican….but probably never will again.

  • Matt Killmoto

    I hope they focus their laser on having motorists pay for highway maintenance and construction.  Why should people who don’t drive be forced to subsidize highways they cannot use?  

  • Lynne

    I am a local govt employee for a SRTS project, but the money for my salary (and all those on our team) comes from federal SRTS funds that then go to my state DOT and then trickle down to our City department and our SRTS program. Our DOT has already said that without federal funds, our SRTS project will not continue.

  • Anonymous

    It’s just a House bill. The Senate bill has a slightly different provision, though it still changes the current funding structure. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (who is a Republican) blasted the House bill. There is going to be an ongoing battle over the final details of any transportation bill. The story isn’t finished yet.

  • Jack

    If providing money for bike/ped projects isn’t a federal responsibility, then neither is funding of any transportation projects.  I plan to write a few Republicans who live in the D.C. area and ask them to get off our bike paths built with TE funding (like the Rock Creek Trail Bridge).  Oh wait, none of them listen to anyone anyway except their favorite groups.  Maybe if we changed LAB’s name to NRA…

  • I take the train into NYC then unfold the bike and bike to work.. Down 5th ave.   I use the bus lane.   A flat place like NYC would seem to be the #1 kind of place to have a great bike program like Toronto.   There are LOTS of bikers, even in winter and it is the Fastest way to go short distances or cross town.  Far faster than taxis.    My point is that the City was paying for safety program but they were soundly attacked as reducing parking spaces.   And now they may be undone.    Weather is is big oil, short sighted policy, or just no $s to be had from bikers, It is sad to think that existing paths (if a 2.5′ wide strip of a 100′ wide road could be called a paths) will likely be obliterated.    PS Its illegal (and dangerous) to ride on the sidewalks here.