Complete Streets Provision Eliminated From Final Transpo Bill

Transportation for America, the big-tent coalition for transportation reform, tends to be careful about the statements it puts out. Its folks are diplomatic, since they work with both sides on the Hill and a wide variety of coalition members. Yesterday, as details of the conference report were leaking out, they wanted to read the whole bill before weighing in publicly. Now that they’ve absorbed it all, they’ve come out swinging.

Language requiring accommodation to nonmotorized users was struck from the final bill. Photo: ## DOT via National Complete Streets Coalition##

“Senate Capitulates to House Demands,” today’s statement reads, “Eliminates Critical Provisions in Transportation Bill.”

T4A goes on:

Despite initial rumors that negotiations would lead to some real progress on essential transportation needs, the ‘compromise’ undoes progress from previous bills and provides little vision for the future.

We’ll have details throughout the day on the significant provisions in the bill and how they differ from current policy.

Yesterday we mentioned the watered-down funding provisions for street safety projects compared to the Senate bill. Turns out that isn’t the only way that the final bill weakens biking and walking.

Indeed, the complete streets provision that passed with bi-partisan support in the Senate was eliminated from the final bill. “It was included in the Commerce committee’s freight title, which had come under fire from House Republicans for unrelated reasons,” said Barbara McCann of the National Complete Streets Coalition in a statement this morning.

The street safety (or “complete streets”) amendment [PDF] introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) ordered the Secretary of Transportation to “establish standards to ensure that the design of Federal surface transportation projects provides for the safe and adequate accommodation, in all phases of project planning, development, and operation, of all users of the transportation network, including motorized and non-motorized users.”

McCann did note a silver lining: the Highway Safety Improvement Program language in the report includes a new, more comprehensive definition of street users that is based on Complete Streets language.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Banking Committee, which wrote and negotiated the transit title of the bill, just released a statement that barely mentions transit. Jobs, safer highways, student loans, flood insurance: check. Transit: not so much. More to come.

  • K Streetsblog

    We suck. We need better lobbyists. 

  • Or more to the point…

    We need better Members of Congress.

  • RawsonJ

    Essentially, it boils down to the fact that auto travel is a NATIONAL issue, and is thus is something that the US Congress and the FedGov have an interest in funding and maintaining. Auto travel also largely pays its own way through the gas tax. Highways, roads, and auto travel benefit everyone…even those who don’t own a car. Think about delivery of goods, and EMS services. Fireman and police don’t come to your house on a light rail train or on bikes, and Wal-Mart doesn’t have its inventory delivered on buses!

    Bikes, pedestrian travel, streetcars, buses, and subways are LOCAL things that local and perhaps State governments should support on their own if and only if they wish to do so and pay for those things themselves. People in Georgia or Arizona shouldn’t have their tax dollars going to build a new subway tunnel in NYC or bail out a failing bus system in Pennsylvania. People in Orange County or Upstate New York should pay for new bike lanes in LA or NYC. This can be contrasted with the highway System which benefits all people and thus is a legitimate thing to spend Federal money on.

  • aprileileen
  • aprileileen

    Letter to the Editor, run in the Long Beach Business Journal on June 19th:

    Executives Voice Concern About Congress Removing Funding For Bicycling, Walking

    are a small collection of business and property owners in Southern
    California, who, like hundreds of our business colleagues, are dismayed
    at Congress’s attempt to try and remove the mere one percent of funding
    in the transportation bill that is now before the House and Senate
    dedicated for bicycling and walking. Investing in safe walking and
    biking infrastructure and programs is not only crucial in keeping our
    citizens, children, and workforce healthy – and reduces our nation’s
    enormous healthcare costs that stem from inactivity and obesity – but is
    essential for our economy and businesses.

    Bicycle and pedestrian investments create around twice as many
    jobs (11-14) as road projects per $1 million spent, and increase
    property values by an average of 11 percent. Bicycling generates $133
    billion in economic activity, supports more than 1.1 million jobs, and
    generates $17.7 billion in local, state, and federal taxes.

    Cities throughout our region have identified these investments as
    critical to revitalize business districts and neighborhoods, create
    jobs, and grow local economies. Success stories are not hard to come by.
    In Long Beach, within one year of investing in bicycle infrastructure
    and programs, 18 new bicycle related businesses opened providing local
    jobs and increasing tax revenue. In a down economy, Los Angeles, Santa
    Monica, Pasadena, San Diego, and other cites are using this low-cost
    high-return strategy to boost our sluggish economic recovery.

    That Congress is dangerously close to eliminating the small
    amount of federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and
    programming essential for our regional economy is inexcusable. We must
    preserve this funding and seek ways moving forward to increase it.

  • Lj

    “Essentially, it boils down to the fact that auto travel is a NATIONAL issue”

    Emergency service is just as local as transit and bicycling. Most deliveries are local as well. I’ll grant that a lot of freight goes by highway, but even more freight goes by rail.

    Auto travel emphatically does NOT pay its way…and that is why the highway bill has been so controversial. The congress cannot figure out how to pay for it. The highway trust fund is broke. Since 2009 the highway fund has been directly subsidized to the tune of $30 billion and the new bill has an additional $19 billion of direct subsidies for roads.

    But even before the highway trust fund went broke, car travel was 40% subsidized. And that’s not even considering any of the enormous external costs, like crashes, pollution, energy insecurity, land consumption, impervious surfaces, etc.

    We have a compelling national interest in walking, transit, biking and carpooling. All of the transportation modes that permit safer, more efficient travel. The transportation modes that improve — not degrade — the quality of cities and neighborhoods. That’s what complete streets is about.


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