Earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a long-awaited transportation bill.
Sometimes the hardest work results in nothing happening, and that can be the biggest victory of all. Through the advocacy efforts of groups like the League of American Bicyclists, Rails to Trails, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, Transportation for America, and grassroots advocates like us, we fended off attacks on core trails and active-transportation programs.
Bad proposals known as the Carter and Yoho amendments did not even make it to the floor for a vote. The Carter and Yoho amendments would have made biking and walking projects ineligible for certain types of transportation funding, compromised local small project funding often used for bicycling and walking projects, and made the Recreational Trails Program ineligible for any transportation funding. Bad ideas, all of them!
The underlying Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act rolls transportation alternatives into the surface transportation block grant while maintaining the local control aspects and competitive process that made transportation alternatives program effective at helping Mayors and communities fund their transportation priorities important to their communities.
Next up is a conference committee, where the Senate and House will negotiate a final bill.
To learn more about what is in the bill, and how it compares to the Senate bill, sign up for the LAB webinar on Tuesday November 10, here.
Connecticut's US Senator Chris Murphy wants to "bring a human face to the debate over transportation funding and fight for investments that are smart and driven by you."
Please send the message that creating safe, connected networks for biking and walking is an extremely cost-efficient way to give people real options for getting around without relying on a car for every errand, every outing, and every commute.
To join this conversation, visit www.murphy.senate.gov/fedup and share your perspective.
Here's Senator Murphy's message:
As I travel across Connecticut, I’ve heard countless stories from people about how our transportation system has failed them. A barber commuting from Waterbury to Bridgeport has to choose between serving customers from the after-work rush and making it home for dinner because there is a four-hour wait between trains. A working mom in Norwalk can almost never make her son’s baseball games because of traffic on I-95. A Milford businessman routinely has to budget two hours to travel fewer than twenty-five miles.
People are fed up. Connecticut has some of the worst traffic and the oldest infrastructure in the nation. Traffic, congestion, and delays are more than abstract concepts that affect commerce or productivity. Traffic means stress. Congestion means being late for work. Delays mean missing dinner with your kids night after night.
That’s why I'm reaching out to you. I want to hear your story. How long is your commute? What would a shorter, more reliable commute mean to you and your family? Why you are fed up?
To join this conversation, I encourage you to visit www.murphy.senate.gov/fedup and share your perspective.
I will take your stories to Washington to bring a human face to the debate over transportation funding and fight for investments that are smart and driven by you. Because it’s about time we fix this.
All my best,
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy
Washington: 136 Hart Senate Office Bldg. , Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-4041
Hartford: One Constitution Plaza, 7th Fl., Hartford, Connecticut 06103 (860) 549-8463
Congress is preparing to take action on a new federal transportation bill. Given the shortfall of federal transportation dollars, some members of Congress are already questioning why the federal government provides any funding for bicycling and walking.
Let's make sure Congress doesn't cut funding to help local communities build sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails and more. Please ask our US Senators Blumenthal and Murphy to Co-Sponsor S. 705, The Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act.
Background: The Transportation Alternatives Program provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year to local communities to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. It's the only federal program specifically focused on local transportation priorities. S. 705, the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act, written by Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), makes changes to the program to make it more effective and easier for local governments to use.
For decades, our federal transportation system has focused the bulk of its resources on building roads, leaving many of our communities with few transportation options and rising safety risks for people bicycling and walking. More and more Americans want options for bicycling, walking and transit to live healthier and safer lives. More and more cities and towns are clamoring for more facilities for biking and walking to make their communities more attractive to residents and to improve their economies. S. 705 would help make sure that Congress continues to invest a small share of federal transportation dollars in these types of projects.
And really, what could be greener, zero-emission forms of transportation than biking and walking?
Ask our Senators to cosponsor S. 705, the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act, to ensure that our federal transportation system continues to provide funding for bicycling and walking. Take Action Here.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal joined original sponsor click here.highway safety improvement program. To send a message thanking him for his support,
The bill directs the US Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to establish performance measures for states to use to assess significant reductions in the number of serious injuries and fatalities specifically for both motorized and nonmotorized transportation.
Senator Blumenthal's support for S 1708 comes on the heels of the release of the Most Dangerous Roads report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. That analysis reported 111 pedestrian deaths on Connecticut roads from 2010 - 2012.
Read more about federal Senate Bill 1708 at the LAB website, click here to tell your Congressperson to take action.
The American League of Bicyclists reported the U.S. Senate blocked the Transportation, HUD Appropriations bill, which would have ended debate and brought a vote on the substance of the bill.
The final vote was 54-43. To end debate on a bill there needs to be at least 60 votes in favor to pass.
The Transportation HUD Appropriations bill had passed the Appropriations Committee with strong support from both sides. However, earlier this week, Republican leadership of the Senate argued against the bill, stating the funding level for it was too high.
What does this mean? Both the House and Senate have failed to pass a Transportation and Housing budget. In order to keep the U.S. Department of Transportation open, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution by the end of September.
We will keep you posted on further updates as they become available.
The League of American Bicyclists reported earlier today that the U.S. House leadership pulled the Transportation Appropriations Bill from the floor. Debate and voting on the Bill are postponed until September. If passed, the Bill would include cuts to the Community Development Fund Grant, which funds many programs in local cities, which are used for infrastructure development.
In the Senate however, Senate Majority Leader Reid filed for cloture on the Senate Transportation Appropriations, which means the Senate will vote on Thursday (August 1) to end debate on the Bill and move on to voting.
Additionally, on Tuesday, July 30, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced Amendment 1798 to the Transportation Appropriations Bill to take all the funds from the Transportation Alternatives Program.
Bike Walk Connecticut will keep you posted on the Senate vote this week.
On December 10, Connecticut's leading transportation advocates--the Regional Plan Association, Transit for Connecticut, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Business Council of Fairfield County, Capitol Region Council of Governments, Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, Connecticut Construction Industries Association--convened elected officials, transportation experts, and state decision makers to learn how we can work together to move Connecticut forward.
Jack Basso, Director of Program Finance and Management for AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transit Officials), was the keynote speaker. Panelists included Emil Frankel, Bipartisan Policy Center; Oz Griebel, MetroHartford Alliance; Joe McGee, The Business Council of Fairfield County; and Commissioner Jim Redeker, Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Presentations from AASHTO's Jack Basso's and DOT Commissioner Jim Redeker are available below.
The recent passage of a 27-month federal surface transportation bill, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21), will bring dramatic changes to how communities around the country will fund their trail, walking and bicycling projects.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) will hold two free webinars to help advocates, planners, implementers and others navigate the changes made in MAP-21 to the core trails, walking and bicycling programs of the last transportation law: Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program. These webinars will feature experts from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), local and/or state transportation agencies and RTC.
Webinar 1: Tuesday, July 17, 1 p.m. EDT: A MAP-21 Survival Guide for Trail, Walking and Bicycling Advocates > REGISTER HERE
This webinar is geared specifically for national, state and local advocates and supporters of trail, walking and bicycling infrastructure as well as other beneficiaries of TE such as historic preservation and environmental interests. The webinar will address questions such as:
Webinar 2: (Sometime the week of July 30, TBD): Implementing the Transportation Alternatives Provisions of MAP-21
This webinar will address specific issues faced by local and state agencies that are responsible for implementing the new Transportation Alternatives section of MAP-21.
Panelists for this session are still being finalized, but will include Tracy Hadden Loh, research manager for RTC and director of the National Transportation Enhancement Clearinghouse and some combination of representatives from federal, state and local (metropolitan planning organization) agencies.
The America Bikes coalition — representing the nation’s leading bicycling and walking groups — and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership oppose the new transportation bill, which would nationally cut funding for biking and walking projects by 60 to 70 percent.
We are deeply concerned that bicycling and walking programs suffer large and disproportionate cuts in funding in the new bill. Programs that save lives and dollars are eliminated.
The full extent of cuts to biking and walking funding will be determined at the state level and may be even deeper. We will continue to work in states and local communities to support safe, accessible streets.
The new transportation bill is a bad bill for biking and walking. This bill:
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.
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.”
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