This Week: Road Builders and Bike Advocates Convene in the Capital

Photo: ##http://www.rallyforroads.com/rally-roads-dc/##Rally for Roads##

The House of Representatives is back in town, and its members still don’t have a transportation bill. In fact, they probably won’t have one for weeks. But two groups holding conferences in Washington this week would be more than happy to help them out in the meantime.

First, the League of American Bicyclists kicks off its annual National Bike Summit tomorrow. Wednesday’s program will feature a welcome speech delivered by secretary of transportation and noted bicycle commuter Ray LaHood. (Streetsblog will be covering the Bike Summit all week long.)

In a twist that probably can’t be considered purely coincidental, tomorrow will also see the highway construction industry hold its second annual Rally for Roads on the National Mall.

The Hill reports that the Rally for Roads will be attended by a litany of House transportation committee members, including Chairman John Mica, ranking member Nick Rahall, and highway subcommittee chair John Duncan. A few congressmen will make appearances at both events, including Reps. Peter DeFazio and Tom Petri, both of whom have voiced their support for bike-ped and transit programs in the House.

With the fate of the House transportation bill still undecided, both groups are hoping to win key battles over federal funding. Bike advocates will be looking to protect the programs that keep streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians, which would be eliminated under the most recent House propsal. The road builders will be looking for looser regulations on labor and environmental review, but they will also be seeking more money — money they stand to gain if bike-ped and transit programs are de-funded.

Highway builders have long been an imposing lobbying force in Washington. But rather than using their influence to promote sustainable development or multimodalism, their chief objective is usually to get the government to spend as much money as possible on highway ingredients — steel, asphalt, cement, and so on. Though they certainly don’t reflect all of America’s transportation needs, especially for cities, highway builders’ voices are often the loudest to be heard — and just as often the only ones to whom Congress listens.

However, as we saw when the House threatened to cut off dedicated funding for transit, the highway builders are not the only voice in the debate anymore.

  • Mike Lydon

    They’ll rally for roads while we rally for streets…

  • Elliot

    I don’t see how defunding bike/ped programs is in the interest of the road construction industry.  Sure, a lot of bike/ped infrastructure is just paint or thermoplastic, but shared-use paths and state-of-the-art cycle tracks that include relocating curbs and such can turn into contracts for these folks just the same.

  • Dan

    “Creating”  all those jobs means shoveling more profits down their throats rather than spending it on healthcare and education.  They would like nothing more than to rebuild the entire Interstate system on a regular basis (which is what it really needs and was originally designed to have done by now).  If they really cared about the movement of freight in an effective manner, they would be clammoring to rebuild/expand the freight and passenger rail systems.  But that would be both more economical (meaning less profitable) and longer lasting (less opportunity to profit from redoing it).

  • frank7041

    There’s no need for conflict between road builders and bicyclists.  If the bicycle crowd was smart they would advocate for a dedicated revenue stream.  About $25 a bike plus a few bucks a tire would be more than enough to create a sustainable source of revenue for bike routes.  The problem is that some bicyclists feel their mode is more virtuous than others and that they somehow deserve charity from the gas tax.  It’s a mistake.  Let the motorists have their gas tax, bicyclists have a bike tax and everyone can get along.  No need for snobbery or creating enemies with the road building lobby.  No one wins like that.