Federal transportation bill delayed…again

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Dedicated bike funding threatened in both the House and Senate

The long-term future of the federal investment in transportation—including bicycling—remains uncertain. Key decisions about the next multi-year transportation bill (that pays for roadways, transit and all types of bike projects and programs) won’t be made until September–at the earliest. Input from bike business owners and individuals who want bicycling to be safer and easier will continue to influence the process.

While both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have been working for two years to develop a new, multi-year transportation bill, neither body has made significant progress. Less money is readily available to provide funding, which has intensified debate about what should be supported and at what levels.

U.S. Representative John Mica, chair of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee, has proposed eliminating all dedicated funding for bike projects. He’s suggested that bicycling isn’t a mode of transportation (even though Americans made more than 2 billion transportation-oriented bike trips last year) and therefore isn’t in the “federal interest.” Mr. Mica would leave funding decisions to each state, which is a problem for bicycling because some state Departments of Transportation focus almost exclusively on highway projects and overlook available funding and strong public support for transportation choices.

On the Senate side, the bike-funding proposal looks slightly better. In their draft bill, dedicated funding for bike projects would likely continue, but the sum of money available could drop significantly because bike projects would be grouped with a bigger mix of other non-highway projects. Some senior members of the Senate Environment Public Works Committee have targeted bike project funding for elimination.

Early in July, we asked supporters of Peopleforbikes.org to contact their U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators via email to ask for their continuing support of dedicated bike funding in the next federal transportation bill.

Peopleforbikes.org supporters responded quickly and effectively by penning nearly 20,000 emails in just a few days. These messages made a difference: Members of Congress and their staffers talked about the strong response, and many said that it was a convincing statement of how much Americans value bike funding and want bicycling to be safer and easier. Some Congressional leaders have reiterated their support for our programs.

What’s next

On August 5, Congress will to head into recess and isn’t scheduled to reconvene until the second week of December.

For bike funding, this continuing delay is not a completely a bad thing. Bike paths, trails, other infrastructure improvements and programs such as Safe Routes to School continue to receive funding according to the provisions of SAFETEA-LU, the last multi-year federal transportation bill that became law in 2005. That bill provides strong funding and policy support for bicycling.

Nevertheless, Bikes Belong, Peopleforbikes.org and our partner organizations remain very concerned about recent proposed changes to transportation funding that could dramatically reduce the cost-effective federal investment in bike infrastructure and programs.

Here’s the bottom line:

A new multi-year federal transportation bill could be considered and approved this fall, or the process could stretch into 2012 or even 2013.

Bikes Belong will continue work with Congress to preserve bike-friendly legislation.

Bike business leaders and individuals who bike can continue to weigh in and influence this process.

Bikes Belong will keep our members and supporters posted and let them know how they can help.