Many of you may have heard Congress has been burning the midnight oil recently to extend a Federal Transportation Bill before a deadline next Monday. There have been a lot of rumors floating around that there would be negative impact on Federal funds for pedestrian and bicycling projects. It now appears the bill is out of committee and will come up for a vote on Friday. The news is not good for cycling. According to a report coming from America Bikes this bill:
Cuts available biking and walking funds by 60 to 70 percent. Biking and walking programs are combined into a single program, Transportation Alternatives, with drastically reduced funding.
Eliminates dedicated Safe Routes to School funding. The bill eliminates dedicated funding for the massively popular and cost-effective Safe Routes to School program, which helps make walking and biking to school safer for millions of American schoolchildren.
Weakens local control. The new transportation bill allows states to opt-out of half of the funds potentially available for small-scale biking and walking projects. Whereas the bi-partisan Senate bill allowed local governments and planning entities to compete for 1% of transportation funds, the new bill allows states to opt-out of the local grant program completely.
Makes biking and walking compete with new, expensive eligibilities. Eligibilities such as road uses and environmental mitigation have been added to Transportation Alternatives, making it harder for local communities to compete for funding for local biking and walking projects.
This two-year bill represents a major step backwards in transportation policy for transportation choices and healthy physical activity. Despite this temporary setback in national policy, bicycling and walking will continue to grow and gain support, and Americans will continue to demand safer, more accessible streets and communities. Going forward, biking and walking will return to a central place in America’s transportation policies and programs.
This will certainly not make our job as advocates easier. Hopefully, we can continue to work with our local governments and RIDOT to make intelligent choices as they move forward with various infrastructure projects. We will definitely need your help! Please make a point of coming to our annual meeting and offering up what you can to help continue advocating for cycling!