House GOP Threatens to Wipe Out Local Control Over Bike/Ped Funding

Funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects could become scarce if the House gets its way. Photo: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

The House GOP couldn’t pass a transportation bill of their own, so now they want to undo one of the major bi-partisan achievements in the Senate transportation bill.

As part of its counter-offer to the Senate in conference committee negotiations over the transportation bill, the House appears to be proposing the elimination of the Cardin-Cochran amendment, which would allow local jurisdictions to control funds for bike/ped projects. The House proposal, sent to the Senate yesterday, would effectively block access to bike/ped funding for many towns, cities, and regions located in states where the department of transportation places a low priority on street safety.

Politico Pro reported that House conferees confirmed that the first part of its counter to the Senate offer would “retain the Transportation Enhancements program’s overall structure but would let states opt out.” Transportation Enhancements is one of the principal funding mechanisms for bike/ped projects. Neither Politico nor Streetsblog has seen a copy of the couter-offer, so it’s unclear exactly how the proposal is framed.

Initially, under the Senate’s MAP-21 bill, TE was subsumed under a section of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program called “Additional Activities,” which states could opt out of entirely. But thanks to a bi-partisan amendment crafted by Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran and Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, decision-making authority for those funds was devolved from states to local governments, which tend to place a higher priority on active transportation programs.

The House proposal appears to erase that progress.

“By allowing states to opt out of Additional Activities funding, the House counter-offer would prevent local governments from accessing funds for small-scale, local transportation projects,” said Mary Lauran Hall, communications coordinator for America Bikes. “It pits state control against local control. We’ve heard from mayors and local elected officials across the country that they want funding for these projects. It doesn’t make sense to take away the tiny portion of transportation dollars that trickle to local governments.”

The House is expected to complete its counter-offer over the next few days.