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.”
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]:
Bike Walk Connecticut
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