Tag Archives: Congress

Window closing fast on transportation bill

A Senate-House conference committee is closing in on the final version of a transportation appropriations bill that will shape national policy for years to come. Please speak up for some key points that still have a chance of being adopted.

  • An important one is to give local governments in metro areas like South Florida direct access to funds for paths and sidewalks without having to wait for state approval.
  • Another would preserve flexibility for our transit agency in using aid funds for operations.

While there still is time, please call your representative and senators today. Here’s a page you can use to find their phone number. There’s also a script you could speak from, but your own words will be fine. What’s important is to call.

Want to know more? You could download the Conference Talking Points attached below. They’re from our friends at Transportation for America.

Help make a bad bill better

Rep. John Mica of Florida finally unveiled the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act today. It’s about as bad as it could be for those of us trying to improve facilities for walking and bicycling. Some of the wrongs in the bill can’t be helped now, but there are two things we should try to save:

  • Safe Routes to School
  • Dedicated funding for bicycling and walking.

The bill goes to markup Thursday in Mica’s House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where Reps. Thomas Petri (R-Wisc.) and Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) will offer amendments to restore specific funds for those purposes.  Very soon after that the bill is going to the House floor and likely adoption.

 

If you haven’t already done so, please reach out to your member of Congress on behalf of the Petri-Johnson amendments. South Florida has nobody on T&I right now but your member may have a friend there. This link from the League of American Bicyclists will help you reach your member.

 

Funding via Safe Routes to School has helped Miami-Dade County correct hazardous streets in several school neighborhoods that a few years ago were hot spots for traffic injuries of children. The program is immensely popular — and effective — all across the country.

 

Over the past decade, Florida has used dedicated funding from a program called Transportation Enhancements to create or improve dozens of facilities for bicycling and walking. Our newest in the Miami area is the already-popular M-Path bridge over the Snapper Creek Expressway. Dedicated funding under TE has, in some states, enabled a decade of progress toward streets that serve all people, not just drivers.

 

There’s been huge progress in highway safety in the half-century since seat belts were first required, but pedestrian deaths are actually on the rise. Spending on the safety of walkers and bicyclists is disproportionally small compared to the deaths those modes of travel incur. That disparity is a disgrace. Let’s put a stop to it.

Aid for walking, biking, under attack

The proposed federal transportation bill rolled out today looks worse than we feared. Not only does House Transportation Chairman John Mica aim to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements program, he’s proposing to zero out the popular Safe Routes to School program, which has begun to reverse a generation of local neglect for children’s safety on America’s streets. Transportation Enhancements, of course, has paid for dozens of Miami-Dade paths, trails, sidewalks and the like in its eight years of existence.

 

In addition, the legislation would markedly change U.S. policy about public transit. According to Mica’s committee, the new six-year authorization bill would focus more on suburbs and rural communities, along with the elderly and disabled. And it would “[remove] barriers that prevent the private sector from offering public transportation services.” It’s not clear to us how that will affect metropolitan transit systems; we’ll report more when we can.

 

Our fellow advocates at America Walks, the Alliance for Biking & Walking, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Safe Routes National Partnership are calling for a wave of response to today’s proposal. They offer the following links to make your communication easier:

You can also sign our petition at change.org (and thank you, all who already signed!).  Whatever your choice, you’ll save time if you have your full nine-digit ZIP code handy before you start. For this article’s second page, click “Read more” below.

Mica’s committee, and its Senate counterpart, do not have a pleasant job before them right now. The mainstay of federal surface transportation funding for many years has been the tax on gasoline and highway diesel fuel. Those revenues, feeding into the Highway Trust Fund, have slumped as fuel prices and the recent recession have led to less driving. At the same time, consumers are choosing fuel-sipping hybrids and other thrifty cars. On top of that, growing numbers are wisely learning to walk more, bike more, and use trains and public transit where they exist. The bill Mica offered today seeks to stay within current levels of gas tax revenue — projected at $230 billion over six years.

 

Mica has cover for what he’s doing in the report of a bipartisan think tank that declared last month that trails, paths, sidewalks and the like do not represent any national interest.  We couldn’t disagree more. As the League points out:

  • Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the U.S. — even as funding for biking and walking projects only accounts for 1.5 percent of the federal transportation budget.
  • Two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths are on federally funded highways. One-third of children killed in traffic are struck by cars while walking or biking. Some timid or short-sighted parents may drive their children or keep them indoors because of those deaths — but that’s exactly what the children do not need if they’re to grow up healthy.

So, please reach out today to our members of Congress — both our senators and your House member — and let them know how much this matters to you and your families. The schedule for committee action is short, so don’t delay.

For the House committee’s report, click here.