GOP Leader’s Infra “Compromise” Is Just Another Ploy to Kill Bike/Ped

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has put forth an idea that major news outlets are calling an “olive branch” to President Obama on infrastructure funding.

Eric Cantor's bold new compromise on infrastructure? Just Republican talking points. Photo: ## Shinkle / Politico##

Is he offering to increase spending levels over the starvation program being proposed by Republicans on the House Transportation Committee? No. Is he proposing to include performance measures, making sure that investments contribute to national transportation priorities? No. Is he baldly trying to eliminate bike/ped funding from the budget? You got it.

Cantor’s “compromise” is already a plank of the Transportation Committee’s plan. Cantor, and Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) want to “eliminat[e] the requirement that states must set aside 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds for transportation museums, education, and preservation would allow states to devote these monies to high-priority infrastructure projects, without adding to the deficit.”

The pot of money he’s proposing to eliminate is called Transportation Enhancements, and the primary way the federal government supports active transportation. Republicans have been using the “10 percent” figure to drum up indignation over the “misuse” of transportation funds, but it’s important to note that Transportation Enhancements make up 10 percent of the surface transportation program, which is less than a quarter of the entire federal aid highway program. Enhancements actually make up about two percent of all federal highway aid.

That’s two percent for biking and walking, which together make up 12 percent of trips. Larry Ehl of Transportation Issues Daily predicted yesterday that bike/ped funding — even though it represents a tiny proportion of the total transportation tab — would be a stumbling block in extending the current transportation bill. Indeed, it’s a major point of contention in debates over the whole bill.

It’s ridiculous, given that the vast majority of the bill is still for highways. But here comes Eric Cantor, trotting out party-line gimmicks and convincing the media it’s a breakthrough.

Know what would be a real breakthrough, Mr. Cantor? When Congress comes back into session tomorrow, pass a clean extension of SAFETEA-LU without any strings attached or budget cuts required. Then work with the Senate to pass its bipartisan bill, which itself is the product of serious compromise with some of the most conservative members of the Republican party. The bill holds spending at current levels, plus inflation; it agrees with the House on a major expansion of the TIFIA loan program; it includes some performance measures; and it preserves dedicated funding for bike/ped. Now what’s so hard about that?

5 thoughts on GOP Leader’s Infra “Compromise” Is Just Another Ploy to Kill Bike/Ped

  1. If blue states were run by smarter people, the GOP’s boner for ending infrastructure spending would be an opportunity. It might mean we have to raise taxes to make up the shortfall, but it would also show once and for all that the infrastructure we pay for is exactly what keeps us afloat. No matter how rock bottom their taxes get, places like Arizona aren’t going to look so business-friendly when the highways the feds pay for, courtesy of New York and California taxpayers, stop being maintained.

  2. Also, Eric Cantor looks like he stuffs fresh entrails into his underwear. Sorry, I just had to get that out.

  3. And it’s not 2 percent for biking and walking, it’s 2 percent for “transportation enhancements” which in most communities include a large proportion of beautification projects, historic preservation of transportation infrastructure, and education, and those can be big ticket items. I suspect that the amount spent on bicycling and walking is less than half of enhancements, which is to say, less than 1% of the federal transportation budget. 

    Exactly two decades ago when we first created the Transportation Enhancements category, we felt we had to include bicycling and walking in with other popular categories in order to get funded. Times have changed. No need to be too clever about it. The federal government should fund bicycling and walking, and let’s be straightforward. 

    Here’s an idea, America Bikes: what about a 1% for biking and walking requirement that applied to all federal funds (which would be more than the current spending amount)? And what about making federal grants contingent on states spending at least 1% of their money on biking and walking? 

  4. Eliminating the TE program will have the salutory effect of requiring competent state-level advocacy organizations to deeply infiltrate the programmng processes within state DOTs. We’ll have to create new (or augment existing) programs without the federal crutch.

    The modern American bicycling and walking movement– as represented by the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 100+ member organizations– has been building capacity for 20 years. It’s time to see what we’re made of.

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