Bike Trail Funding Survives 583 Amendments

Bet you weren’t expecting to hear any good news from the floor of the House today, were you? Turns out not everyone in Congress is as axe-happy as some high-profile Republicans. For example, Amtrak survived one attempt to cut all its funding and another to cut $447 million. (Amtrak funding does stand to lose $224 million in cuts already included in HR 1, the budget bill for the rest of FY2011.)

A bike/ped trail in Binghamton, NY funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo courtesy of the ## Park Service##.

Over the weekend, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy sent out a pre-emptive action alert, afraid that any spending-cut frenzy would inevitably end up targeting the always vulnerable “transportation enhancements” program that funds bike/ped projects. RTC feared Safe Routes to School and other trail funding would lose out too.

“We knew there was going to be this open amendment process with hundreds of amendments flying around,” said RTC’s policy VP Kevin Mills. “And with some people critical of these core programs, we were on alert.”

You can take your hands off your eyes now – it’s not as bad as they feared.

No amendment directly targeted the transportation enhancements program. An amendment that would cut funding for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, which funds some trails, was defeated by a “nail-biting” 213-216 vote, with 32 Republicans voting against the cuts.

It’s not all good news, of course. The House has passed lots of Republican amendments to cut even deeper than the proposed bill allowed, while restricting Democratic amendments to restore funding by insisting that any funding added back in had to be taken out somewhere else.

For example, leadership rejected an amendment to restore funding to the metro system in the nation’s capital, which the CR proposes to starve of its annual federal payment of $150 million. Other amendments to restore funding for transit and the TIFIA loan program were refused a vote.

Meanwhile, the underlying bill includes $430 million in cuts to the New Starts program, which funds new transit construction, and rescinds $300 million in unspent funds from 2010. The high-speed rail program is completely eliminated. So is TIGER. And a successful amendment targeting President Obama’s “czars” caught the White House Office of Urban Affairs in the crossfire, cutting funding for the director position, which has been vacant since last May anyway.

The House is expected to finish voting on amendments and take a final vote on the bill sometime today. Lawmakers will be in their districts all next week for President’s Day recess, and when they come back, there will be a showdown between the House and the Senate on these spending cuts. Of course, nothing gets through the Senate easily these days, either, with a 53/47 party split and a 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster. But Senate leadership is promising to put up a fight against the House budget bill. And President Obama is threatening to veto a bill that includes cuts as deep as the ones in the House budget bill.

15 thoughts on Bike Trail Funding Survives 583 Amendments

  1. Gentlemen,

    I think we would be better served by using blanket “Republicans” less in pieces such as this and just focusing on (1) our best arguments for not doing what certain individuals propose, and (2) who the individuals are who are proposing cutting funding.

    Why do I suggest this?

    (1) I am a Republican (albiet a very moderate one), while at the same time heading a state bicycling advocacy organization…I’m a bit offended by being “lumped” with certain individuals.
    (2) I don’t wish to alienate reasonable, moderate Republicans (many of whom actually do understand health, transportation, air quality and economic isssues, and they know that biking/walking infrastructure increases property values in most communities…)

    I’m just saying: Let’s stick with making the best case for bicycling so that those that oppose will look stupid or foolish, and redirect the discourse to the facts…

    One man’s opinion…

  2. @Bob Beane,

    I won’t lump you in with the blanket term “Republicans” if you won’t lump me in with the blanket term “gentlemen.”


  3. I agree with Bob ( except the gentlemen part). Bike/ped advocates make the mistake of assuming that every like-minded person is a liberal or Democrat and it’s just not true. By acting like it is, they are ensuring that many Republicans do not even bother trying to win their support.

    Example, at pro walk/pro bike this year one of the main speakers ” the metal cowboy ” went on an anti- republican rant. This not only made him sound stupid, it turned off any Republican mayor etc who may have been attending.

    I dream of a day when you cannot guess who is going to support bike ped spending based upon their political party and thats not going to happen with anti-Republican rhetoric ( no matter how subtle)

  4. I agree, and I’ve been saying this same thing on all political topics over the last few years. Let’s start ignoring the the political affiliation and focus on listing exactly WHO we have to blame for each vote. Conversely, you could list who voted in favor of something good, if you want to be optimistic about it.

    Cyberspace is large; we have room enough for these lists and once we start seeing the same names over and over again, we’ll start focusing on either a) communicating with these individuals rather than whining about their party affiliation or b) voting them out and getting someone better in.

  5. @Bob Beane: If you don’t want to be ‘lumped in’ with (group x), don’t say “I am a (group x).”

    It’s simple, really. Self-responsibility, as all you (group x)’s love… 😉

  6. It’s a disservice to even discuss this “bill” in my opinion. Its all political theater. The republicans know that it stands no chance in the senate and it certainly stands no chance in the white house.
    Anything in this bill is completely meaningless and a waste of all of our time

  7. It is a good idea to welcome folks of a diverse array of political views to come together in supporting safe streets: it’s everybody’s grandparent crossing the street, it’s everyone’s child riding a bike.

    Moreover, we can and should come up with reasons for people with different views to support programs that are consistent with their principles, such as fiscal prudence, quality of life, freedom to choose.

    However, there also is a relevant point that some ideological views are more hostile to programs that benefit everyone, and some political organizations are more beholden to the oil, airline, automobile, and freight rail industries. Those are the main underlying drivers for which politicians oppose bike/ped programs, and it’s not just a personal matter of “getting it” or “being a good person.”

  8. Thank you to Streetsblog for reporting on these important developments in the House of Representatives over the past week. To your accurate account of what happened, I wish to add a note about who made it possible for bicycling and walking to fare as well as they did in this initial test. While I appreciate the nod to RTC for our role, we worked closely with national partner organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. Our shared coalition, America Bikes, was the rallying point for our joint advocacy. Of course, our real strength is the passionate grassroots support that RTC and these partner organizations enjoy. Members of Congress are well aware that threats to trails, bicycling and walking will be met with a strong, bipartisan outcry from their constituents back home. This collective strength will undoubtedly be put to the test repeatedly over the course of this year. Together we intend to meet that challenge.
    Kevin Mills, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  9. Well, if the less inquisitive self-described conservatives dared to look at reality, they’d find that driving is one of the most socialized activities in the US. And there’s much a bout cycling specifically to appeal to any real conservatives that may be left in our country.

    I’m an anarcho-syndicalist (more or less) myself, which labels me Left in the US, but I have a close riding buddy–lifelong cyclist–who is a Goldwater Republican.

    And Weyrich and Lind have provided American Conservative magazine with plenty of articles supporting mass transit, a supposedly left-wing causes.

    Hell, what’s “conservative” about limiting people’s freedom of choice by spending billions in tax money to build a limited infrastructure that coerces people to drive and support foreign dictators?

    I wrote a quick synopsis about some of this at Orange 20:

  10. Well, conservatives who understand health, transportation and air quality, should maybe not affiliate themselves with a party that doesn’t. And seriously, it’s not like the democrats are not conservative. There are really right of most major conservative parties in the Western Democracies.

  11. Well keep on fighting for all the walkers and bike riders whose lives are made safer! And hey, its a bonus for all those other people who like clean air, not to mention those jobs in creating and maintaining trails (can’t do that from China). Not to mention jobs selling and maintaining the bicycles and reduced health care costs. This is worth defending!!!

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