A big thanks to each of you who took the time to contact your Congressperson about the House Transportation Bill - it has been temporarily shelved!
The Transportation for America blog is reporting that the bill that emerged from committee is unable to survive a vote in its entirety. It will now be broken into pieces, debated, and voted on in parts. At best, this represents a temporary reprieve from the attack on mass transit and transportation enhancement funding. At worst, it gives the House GOP time to coalesce around a common scapegoat and continue fighting for even the smallest of victories.
While attempting to decouple transit funding from the fuel tax was one step too far for the GOP, the party can still send the message that it is intent on removing left-leaning cities from the Federal transportation teat. With cyclists and pedestrians accounting for such a small percentage of the electorate, these lawmakers are counting on us to roll over and take this lying down.
I'm under no delusions that it was the cyclists mobilized by the League of American Bicyclists who exerted so much pressure that three prominent local GOP representatives withdrew their support. It was the mass transit defunding overreach and its impact on their constituents that was the straw that broke these camels' backs. Bicyclists and pedestrians are a minority constituency that they will be all too willing to throw under the bus (big pun intended) once transit funding is restored.
Sacrificing cyclist and pedestrian safety is a short-sighted and ill-informed means to achieve budget savings.
For starters, the amount budgeted for transportation enhancements - funds designated specifically for sidewalks, crosswalks, bikeways, and programs like Safe Routes to School - amount to less than 1.5% of the total budget. If I'm reading it correctly, the total bill is $260 billion dollars over 4 1/2 years. So the transportation enhancement share amounts to about $860 million per year to be divided among 50 states. That's less than the US spends for 3 days in Afghanistan!
Contrary to opponents' beliefs, transportation enhancement funds provide less than half of any local or regional infrastructure improvement project with donations, grants, state and local funds providing more than half. When you consider that 11.4 jobs are required for every $1 million in TE project spending - compared to only 7.8 for highway projects - this "austerity" measure comes at the expense of nearly 20,000 jobs.
Then, of course, there are the obvious benefits to all citizens. More pedestrians and cyclists mean fewer cars on the road, eliminating congestion and air pollution. Safer sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways mean more children can obtain daily exercise going back and forth to school. More people taking advantage of active transportation reduces future healthcare costs for treatment of metabolic syndrome (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity).
We need to keep the pressure on and ensure that funding remains for transportation enhancements - this fight is far from over! Visit the action page for the League of American Bicyclists for a quick, convenient way to let your Senators and Representative know you support the Petri-Johnson Amendment in the House and the Cardin-Cochran Amendment in the Senate.
Keep riding, be safe, and stay engaged in the fight for transportation funding!
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