We mentioned it briefly last week, but the amendment to the Senate transportation bill from Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran is a critical one to track. The amendment would give local governments, rather than state DOTs, access to most federal bike-ped funding.
The way the Senate transportation bill, MAP-21, is currently written, all funding for complete streets programs is funneled to state DOTs, and for many cities and towns this could mean losing access to funds that make streets safer.
The Cardin-Cochran Amendment would instead direct the funding to what are known as “Tier 1 Metropolitan Planning Organizations” — agencies that help decide how to spend federal transportation dollars in regions larger than 1 million people. In states that have no MPOs serving areas larger than 1 million residents, state DOTs would distribute the money directly to local communities through a grant process.
Cochran told Streetsblog the measure would protect local communities from missing out on important funds: “Our amendment would ensure that communities continue to have access to federal resources to implement transportation improvements that are meaningful to public safety, economic development and quality of life at the local level,” he said.
Meanwhile, Melody Moody of Bike Walk Mississippi has been running a local letter writing campaign to thank Senator Cochran for his support. More than most states, Mississippi, which suffers from the nation’s most acute obesity problem, needs to provide opportunities for active transportation.