Bill maintains funding and avoids transit cuts, but rolls back safety and environmental protections
In response to the announcement of a conference committee deal to authorize the federal transportation program through September 2014, transportation advocates expressed disappointment at the bill’s lack of reforms and at provisions that would make it harder for communities in Connecticut to provide input on major projects and improve street safety:
“While the bill allows the country to avoid a shutdown of transportation funding, it shuts down progress instead,” said Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director. “It reduces funding for bike and pedestrian projects, rolls back environmental protections, and incentivizes new road building and driving. It’s now up to local and state leaders to fight for a more accountable, environmentally sustainable transportation system.”
The bill would make large portions of dedicated pedestrian and bicycle funding optional for states. Currently, less than 3% of federal transportation funding is dedicated for pedestrian and bicycle projects, and local communities rely on these small programs to improve safety and promote economic development.
“Scores of Connecticut residents are killed and many more injured while walking and cycling each year,” said Kelly Kennedy, Executive Director of Bike Walk Connecticut. “With less help coming from Washington, ConnDOT must step up its commitment to safety.”
The bill also appears to roll back environmental protections. It exempts more projects from the federal project review process and adds arbitrary deadlines that could lead to hasty, error-prone reviews.
"We’re concerned that the bill could make it harder for local communities and residents to provide input on projects that affect their air, water, health, and property,” said Kirsten Griebel, Transportation Program Director, CT League of Conservation Voters.
The bill also changes the federal TIFIA loan program by removing criteria that considered environmental sustainability, project significance, and other factors. As a result, the program could send more money to states that are building many new roads (like North Carolina and Indiana) and less to states in our region.
The Senate had crafted a forward-looking, bipartisan bill, MAP-21. Unfortunately, many positive reforms that had been included in MAP-21 were dropped from the final deal, including provisions to restore the transit commuter benefit to $240/month (it fell to $125/month at the beginning of the year), give transit agencies flexibility over how they spend their federal funds, and focus road and bridge funding on repair and maintenance.
The legislation avoids cuts to public transportation. It would provide new sources of funding for repair of transit systems, and help municipalities build around their rail and bus stations.
“It’s a bitter disappointment that the commuter benefit won’t be restored, though Connecticut thankfully avoids a cut to transit funding,” said Transit for Connecticut Coordinator Karen Burnaska.
“Though the bill lacks significant reforms, it does avoid the most extreme cuts supported by some in the House,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign Federal Advocate Steven Higashide said. “Connecticut’s delegation helped defeat proposals to cut all dedicated funding for public transportation, walking, and cycling projects. We thank them for their hard work.”
Vote Expected Friday or Saturday
It's been a big day for health care given the US Supreme Court's ruling, but it's also a big day for transportation funding.
A transportation bill emerged from the conference committee at 4 am today. Bike/Ped advocates in the nation's capital are analyzing the contents today and will issue positions and statements tomorrow. We are hearing that the bill will be voted on either tomorrow, June 29 or Saturday, June 30.
Early observations are that the two-year funding bill cuts bike/ped funding by 60-70%. Less money is allocated to transportation overall. Complete streets funding has been eliminated. Single-occupancy vehicle lane construction will be sanctioned by the new bill.
The bill also allows states flexibility for using at least some of the transportation money for other purposes. Accordingly, bike/ped advocates must refocus efforts to persuade state and local policymakers and elected officials to dedicate the federal funds to bike/ped projects.
Transportation For America and America Bikes are expected to officially oppose the transportation bill tomorrow.
Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report shows that increasing bicycling and walking is clearly in the public interest.
Bike Walk Connecticut and its members are using the data to make the case for funding bicycling and pedestrian improvements in Connecticut.
The report offers solid, easy to understand explanations for the importance of bike/ped funding to communities, describes good project outcomes and the bad things (injuries, deaths) that could have been avoided through bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Take a look and talk to your local elected officials about it.
You can get the report and online analysis here.
The House and Senate are on the cusp of finally striking a deal on the federal transportation bill. But we've heard alarming news that some of the good provisions that make everyone safer, give us more transportation options and repair our roads, bridges and transit systems could be sacrificed just to get a deal done.
Negotiations between Sen. Boxer and Rep. Mica, the conference committee chairs, have been going on nonstop. This process has, for now, turned into a "two people in a room" situation which could result in a bill draft this week.
Advocacy groups are hearing that Sen. Boxer may be giving away bike & pedestrian funding and control provisions to get a deal done. (See also Transportation Bill Deal May Be Close - But Will It Be a Good Deal?)
If a transportation bill does hit the floor, there will be intense pressure to vote for it. By taking action now, there is an opportunity to change any deal before it goes public.
Here's What You Can Do
Call or email Senator Lieberman's staffer, Garrett Eucalitto at 202-224-4041 or
Hi, my name is [NAME], from [PLACE]. I'm calling to ask [SENATOR] to stand up for bike/pedestrian provisions in the transportation bill being negotiated right now. Can you please pass on this message to [SENATOR]:
As of June 16, all riders entered in the National Bike Challenge have saved more than $1 MILLION by choosing to cycle rather than use a vehicle.
Have you been watching Connecticut's progress in the National Bike Challenge? Currently, our state is ranked 17th and you can help us climb to the top 10!
How? Go to www.nationalbikechallenge.org and sign up, then record all your bike rides - commute, recreational, training, mountain bike, all rides count. Many participants are finding that the Challenge is spurring them on to bike more, some are going car free for the challenge period (it runs through August 30). Why not join in and challenge yourself to bike more?
National Bike to Work Day, May 18, was a big success in Connecticut, where bike commuting is really starting to catch on.
There are several bike to work events planned on an ongoing basis: third Friday of the month in Hartford through August; third Friday of the month year round in New Haven; July 27, August 24, September 21 at UConn Health Center; July 19 (Thursday) in East Hartford. See www.bikewalkct.org/bike-to-work/ for more details.
Committed To Riding Their Bikes To Work, They Inspire Their Students To Give It A Try
"Armand Saccomanno's commute starts in North Windham every day around 6:10 a.m. He packs his gear bags with schoolwork, but instead of jumping into his car, he clicks his bike shoes onto the pedals of his trusty 1982 steel-framed Panasonic road bike - the "old jalopy" he calls it - and starts off on a 14-mile trek to E.O. Smith High School, where he teaches social studies. Saccomanno, 40, has been biking to work for 11 years, rain or shine, in all seasons .... " Read the full Courant article by Lori Riley.
Forty bike-to-workers made it to the June bike to work breakfast at the Old State House. Please join us in thanking our June sponsor, Robinson & Cole.
Last year William Laramie was struck and killed by a drunk driver while cycling home from work on Burnside Avenue.
His partner, Linda Piotrowicz, rallied those he had touched with his music and life to put on a memorial benefit conce
rt on Sunday, June 17th. Bike Walk Connecticut helped publicize the event and our very own Kevin Sullivan played a big role in the impressive silent auction.
Nine bands played Sunday, and the East Hartford Cultural Center was a perfect venue. William's family, friends, band mates, and local music lovers enjoyed an afternoon brimming with great music.
Marcia Leclerc, Mayor of East Hartford, spoke at the event's opening and shared with the growing audience her vision for a safer Burnside Avenue and Main Street--a network of bike friendly roads connecting the downtown to the beautiful Great River Park.
The concert raised almost $4,000 that will be divided between the East Hartford schools music education program and Bike Walk Connecticut.
Because of Linda's efforts there will be more music lessons for East Hartford youths and Bike Walk CT will continue to do great work making biking and walking safer.
Linda and Bike Walk CT are planning to make this an annual event in William's memory. See you there next year!
William's death on Burnside, along with two others, prompted the CT DOT to perform a safety study on this dangerous stretch of road. The CT DOT and City of East Hartford are considering a "road diet" with bike lanes on Burnside Avenue. Recently, bicycle and pedestrian improvements to Main Street (Route 5) in East Hartford were also being discussed.
Send us your bike walk related news and time permitting, we'll do our best to post it.