House Democrats won’t stand for any cuts to federal funding for walking and biking infrastructure. That was the gist of a letter signed by every Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week.
Groups aligned with the Koch brothers and their organization Americans for Prosperity have pushed to eliminate all federal funds for walking, biking, and transit. While Democrats are in the minority in the House, by coordinating as a bloc around this issue, they’re making it harder for the extreme elements in the Republican Party to roll back active transportation funding.
The letter, initiated by Washington representative Rick Larsen, states that Democratic committee members won’t support any bill that undermines the “Transportation Alternatives” program — the small pot of money dedicated to walking and biking.
“For the House transportation bill to be bipartisan, it must not cut funding for TAP or make policy changes that undermine the local availability of these dollars,” reads the letter, addressed to the committee’s two ranking Democratic members, Peter DeFazio (OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):
Communities of all shapes and sizes — rural, urban and suburban — are clamoring for TAP dollars to give their residents lower-cost transportation options that reduce road congestion, improve safety for children and families, and boost quality of life. These types of projects are also essential to helping cities and counties increase property values, grow retail sales and attract tourism. While MAP-21 gave states the option of transferring up to half of TAP funds to other transportation priorities, just 10 percent of TAP funds have been transferred — clearly showing the demand for these funds across the country. This is a good program and it deserves to continue.
Congress has yet to make much progress on a long-term transportation bill to replace the previous bill, MAP-21, which expired last year. During the last transportation bill reauthorization process, biking and walking programs took a big hit. In an email to Streetsblog, Larsen said, “I do not want to see that happen again.”
Larsen represents an area north of Seattle and has a record as a champion of safer streets. He has asked the Government Accountability Office to look at how street design contributes to bike and pedestrian fatalities and held the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ feet to the fire about unsafe engineering standards during Congressional hearings.
In addition to Larsen, 22 representatives signed the letter:
- Jerrold Nadler, New York City
- Corrine Brown, Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida
- Eddie Bernice Johnson, Waco, Texas
- Elijah Cummings, Baltimore
- Michael Capuano, Boston
- Grace Napolitano, L.A. County
- Daniel Lipinski, Chicago
- Steve Cohen, Memphis
- Albio Sires, Jersey City
- Donna Edwards, Maryland’s DC suburbs
- John Garamendi, suburban Sacramento
- André Carson, Indianapolis
- Janice Hahn, Los Angeles
- Richard Nolan, suburban Minneapolis
- Ann Kirkpatrick, Phoenix
- Dina Titus, Las Vegas
- Sean Patrick Maloney, upstate New York
- Elizabeth Esty, western Connecticut
- Lois Frankel, West Palm Beach, Florida
- Cheri Bustos, central Illinois
- Jared Huffman, San Francisco
- Julia Brownley, suburban Los Angeles