Update 7/20: It has come to our attention that the complete draft of the Senate bill will include a hard commitment to bike-ped programs. Senate staff tells us that Sen. Barbara Boxer worked hard and was able to maintain her priorities in the bill, including dedicated federal support for bike infrastructure. More details will come out at tomorrow’s hearing on transportation in Boxer’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and we look forward to seeing a complete legislative draft soon. The rest of this article was written yesterday, before we received these assurances from staff.
The Senate EPW Committee just posted a transportation bill outline on their website, and despite previous assurances by committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), there appears to be no dedicated funding for bicycling and pedestrian programs in the bill. The outline focuses on the consolidation of programs and streamlining project delivery, much like the House bill. The performance measures mentioned in the outline – while not necessarily a comprehensive list – don’t include emissions reductions, undoubtedly at the insistence of climate-denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the committee.
One of Chicago's celebrated new bicycling facilities, the Kinzie Street protected bike lane. Will any federal support for bike/ped projects remain after the next transpo bill passes? Photo: Josh Koonce/flickr
The outline confirms that the Senate is working on a two-year bill but does not include the dollar amount. “Consolidation” is the name of the game these days and the Senate plays along, making seven core surface transportation programs into five, including a new Transportation Mobility Program, which “sub-allocates” some funds to metropolitan areas, and a National Freight Program, which proponents of multi-modalism have long pushed for.
It preserves the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which funds some bike and pedestrian programs. Transportation Enhancements, another major way such programs are funded, will probably now be under CMAQ. It’s unclear whether the Recreational Trails Program will move to CMAQ as well. But although bike and pedestrian projects will still be eligible for funding, there appear to be no explicit funding guarantees for bike-ped projects, and how funding levels will shake out in the final analysis is anybody’s guess.
Like the House, the Senate bill offers states “the flexibility to fund these activities as they see fit” – which amounts to a revocation of the federal commitment to funding this work. Many states, absent a federal mandate, will spend virtually nothing on bike/ped infrastructure.
Bicycling advocates had asked for dedicated funding that doesn’t pit them against road projects, the same funding proportion as they had in SAFETEA-LU, and changes to Safe Routes to School. None of those features appear to be in this bill.
“It’s hard to know without seeing the details, but at first blush it doesn’t look good for bike and pedestrian issues,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Perhaps it’s to be expected that there’s nothing upfront in the language about protecting dedicated funding, given that it was a topic of some contention among the protagonists. But it’s pretty troubling to see no reference to any of the issues that affect cyclists and pedestrians – nothing about complete streets, nothing about dedicated funding.”