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Killing Bicycle & Pedestrian Funding Won’t Fix Our Bridges
Contact Your Senators Today to Save Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding

Last month, we asked you to contact your U.S. Senators to oppose Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s plan to strip funding from the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, which is the main source of the federal investment for bike projects of all types. Bicycle advocates across the country generated more than 75,000 emails to Congress in 48 hours. This rapid and powerful grassroots response succeeded: Mr. Coburn withdrew his amendment and crucial funding for bicycling was preserved.

We are sorry to report today that walk/bike infrastructure funding is under serious and immediate attack again – this time in an amendment proposed by Senator Rand Paul (KY) that would redirect all funding for Transportation Enhancements to bridge repairs. Mr. Paul’s amendment is set for a vote on Tuesday, Nov. 1 when the Senate will finalize the transportation appropriations bill, setting funding levels for FY2012.

We need you to contact Senators Levin and Stabenow today and ask them to oppose this amendment. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Everyone deserves to be safe. We agree on the need to keep our bridges safe, but the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too. Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007: since then, close to 20,000 pedestrians and 2,800 cyclists have died on our nation’s highways, largely as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe non-motorized infrastructure – exactly what the enhancement program was created to fix.
  2. Reallocating walk/bike funding won’t make a dent in the cost of bridge repairs. If Sen. Paul’s amendment is successful, it would eliminate approximately $700 million in federal funding for FY2012 that is used to construct sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, trails and other infrastructure that makes it safe for bicyclists and pedestrians to get around. Even if every penny of these funds is diverted to bridge repairs, Senator Paul’s plan will still take 80 years to fix the backlog of bridge repairs we have today.
  3. Transportation Enhancements provide essential transportation benefits, like reducing road congestion, improving safety, getting people active, and creating more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects. Remember that the TE program represents less than two percent of the Federal transportation program and these projects help alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety, get people active, and create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects.
  4. States don’t spend all the money they already receive for bridge repairs. Remember also that last year, states sent back to Washington $530 million of unspent bridge funds in rescissions – the states are leaving bridge repair funds on the table, unspent, year after year; they should at least spend these funds first.

If the Paul amendment succeeds, it will make it much more challenging to sustain funding for Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails in the long-term transportation bill that the Environment and Public Works Committee starts debating just 8 days later on November 9.

We must turn back any amendment to strip Transportation Enhancements.

Last month, more than 75,000 messages were sent to Senators to ask them to stand strong for Transportation Enhancements. That was an amazing turnout, but we must do better this time. Every time someone in Congress attacks bicycling and walking, we must push back even stronger than we did the time before. And, we will keep doing it until bicycle and pedestrian funding is protected.

This is the third time in a month that a small group of Senators have targeted Transportation Enhancements, using a different angle each time. It is a waste of the Senate’s time and taxpayers dollars to focus on this small and valuable program when we are in dire need of real and viable solutions to fix our failing transportation system.

Please contact your Senators today to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements. Then please forward this message to at least five others who care about the safety of people walking and bicycling on our streets.

Thank you for your help today, and for passing the call to action along.

Key Congressional leaders are attacking Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails and are taking steps to cut off dedicated federal funding for walking and biking. Please act NOW!

We Action_Alertneed every single person who simply wants safe options to walk or bicycle to contact their Senators and Representative today at this link sponsored by Safe Routes to School National Partnership! Just click here, and put in your zip code and the names of your congressional delegates will appear with a message you can send to them. It’s that easy to act to protect dedicated funding for biking and walking.

Read on for more information:

House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced yesterday that his transportation bill will eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourage states from choosing to spend their dollars on these activities that are “not in the federal interest.” Chairman Mica’s statement that these programs remain “eligible” for funding is worthless; without dedicated funding for these three programs, they are effectively eliminated.

Things on the Senate side are not much better. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate ‘frivolous spending for bike trails.’ This is in direct conflict with Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) commitment to maintain dedicated funding for biking and walking. However, the Senate is working towards a bi-partisan solution, and Senator Inhofe’s comments mean funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs is at risk of total elimination.

Help protect Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them to reach out to Senators Inhofe, Boxer, and Congressman Mica to urge them to continue dedicated funding for these important bicycling and walking programs.

Do you need some good facts to further bolster your argument?

Not in the federal interest? Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the US, even as funding for biking and walking projects only accounts for 1.5% of the federal transportation budget. That is more than 4 billion bicycle trips and 40 billion walking trips a year, including trips to work, school, shopping and for recreation and tourism.

Frivolous? Two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths are on federally funded highways. One-third of children’s traffic deaths happen when children are walking or bicycling and are struck by cars. Bicycling and walking programs build sidewalks, crosswalks and bikeways-improving accessibility and saving lives.

The Facts

  • Biking and walking are important forms of transportation, and funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements is a very efficient use of federal transportation dollars. Portland, OR built 300 miles of bike lanes and trails for the cost of one mile of highway.
  • These projects create jobs and build local economies. Building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates 46% more jobs than building road-only projects per million dollars spent. Cities that invest in bicycle and pedestrian projects turn downtowns into destinations, and capitalize on increased business activity.
  • Eliminating the 1.5% of transportation funding spent on bike/ped would have no meaningful impact on the federal budget, but would decrease transportation options for American families in a time of rising gas prices and an uncertain economy.

Why Act Now? Both the House and Senate long-term transportation bills are being written as we speak. We still have a chance of influencing the outcomes. Let’s make sure that funding for biking and walking programs don’t disappear for many years.

We need every Senator to tell Senators Boxer and Inhofe that bicycling and walking are vital parts of our transportation system, and that there must be dedicated funding for sidewalks, bike lanes and trails to ensure that bicyclists and pedestrians are safe. And we need every Representative in the House to tell Chairman Mica the same.

Please contact your Senators and Representatives TODAY to tell them that bicycling and walking are a critical part of a safe and equitable transportation system. Ask them to tell Representative Mica and Senators Boxer and Inhofe that a federal transportation bill must continue dedicated funding for bicycling and walking.

As a follow-up to the Action Alert we posted in late April regarding the Michigan budget process, we wanted to update our supporters on the finalized budget in regards to complete streets and public transit funding.

The House version of the budget ultimately reduced bus operating and bus capital by $20 million, however the final version that came out of conference committee restored funding for public transportation to current year levels. We are extremely pleased to see that the House and Senate came together to recognize the vital importance of funding public transportation in Michigan.

The complete streets boilerplate language did not fare so well, however. Unfortunately, while the Senate version of the budget included the complete streets boilerplate language, which gave Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding preference to communities with complete streets policies, the final version lacked such language.

The TE program is a competitive grant program that funds projects such as nonmotorized paths, streetscapes, and historic preservation of transportation facilities, that enhance Michigan’s intermodal transportation system and improve the quality of life for Michigan citizens.

The TE incentive language, which was successfully included in last year’s budget, helped encourage over 25 communities in Michigan to adopt complete streets resolutions and ordinances in the past year alone. We are extremely disappointed that this incentive language, which did not cost anything, was removed from the bill.

We are pleased to report, however, that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), who administers TE funding, has verbally indicated that they will continue to give TE priority to communities with complete streets ordinances and resolutions despite this language being stripped out of the budget bill.

Having received numerous inquires regarding the subject of TE priority going to communities with complete streets policies; we recently requested further clarification from MDOT about how they implement this preference. The Department has explained to us that basically all things being equal in the applications between two communities applying for TE dollars, a community that has shown a true commitment to complete streets would have the more competitive TE project.

This does beg the question of how often communities actually submit truly identical applications. MDOT went on to explain that a community with a competitive project, a complete streets resolution, policy, or ordinance, and a robust public input process that engages all users of the system will have a better chance to secure TE funding than a community that does not develop projects on a good complete streets foundation. “There is no guarantee of funds, but complete streets is good for the community and it improves your chances for a successful application,” said Amber Thelen, MDOT’s TE Program Manager.

MDOT’s Project Competitiveness Details document, available on the TE Program website, specifically references complete streets in two places under the heading “What other factors make a project competitive for TE funding?”:

  • project identified as a result of a community’s Complete Streets stakeholder involvement Process
  • projects supporting a community’s Complete Streets policy, or is part of a statewide initiative such as Cool Cities, Cities of Promise, the Safe Routes to School Program, Heritage Route or Scenic Byways Program

They stressed that regardless if a community has passed a resolution or ordinance, their primary concern is whether or not the community can demonstrate a true commitment to the principles of complete streets in how they approach transportation projects. In addition, MDOT encouraged communities with questions or who have a potential project idea, to contact a TE Grant Coordinator who are available to assist communities by providing more information on the program, guidance on competitive projects, and how to best develop a competitive application. Contact information is available www.michigan.gov/tea, under the “Contact Us” heading.

We will continue to share further details on this topic as they become available.

We would again like to thank all of our supporters who contacted their legislator to ask them to protect transit funding and the complete streets boilerplate language.

UPDATE (5/5/11): Yesterday the full House passed the transportation budget with most other department budgets as one omnibus bill.  The transportation budget contained the same cuts approved by the House Appropriations Committee – $10 million reduction to Bus Operating and $10 million reduction to Bus Capital.  The bill also removed important language that gives grant funding preference to communities with complete streets policies.

We would like to thank everyone who responded to our action alert to oppose these cuts. The next stop for this bill is conference committee, made up of legislators from both the House and Senate.  We do not yet know when the committee will meet or who the conferees will be.  As soon as we know we will post this information to our website. 

Contact your Representative Today!

As we reported last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Transportation voted against the Governor’s funding recommendation for fiscal year 2012 by reducing public transportation funding  by up to 10 percent. Additionally, important complete streets language was stripped from the House version of this transportation funding bill. This important incentive has helped to encourage at least 24 communities in Michigan to adopt complete streets policies this past year, for a total of 40 across the state – the most in the nation.

We are asking complete streets and transit supporters to take action today and contact your Representative to ask them to restore funding for public transportation and to continue to prioritize transportation funding to communities with complete streets policies.  After clicking the take action link above, a predrafted message to your representative will pull up once you put in your zip code.  We encourage you to personalize the message and to explain why public transportation and complete streets are important to you.

Thank you in advance for taking action!

SENATE BUDGET UPDATE:

The full Senate Appropriations Committee reported out yesterday morning their version of the transportation budget which cuts $15 million from the passenger transportation fund (CTF). Senator Anderson offered an amendment, which was supported by Senator Pappageorge and approved, that shifts the full $15 million cut to the Bus Capital line item (the original version had the $15 million cut split between Bus Operating [$5 million] and Bus Capital [$10 million]. This is the less bad option. It means that there will not be money to purchase new buses for FY 12, but restores the money for bus operating.

The Complete Streets boilerplate language was retained in the Senate version. Passenger rail was fully funded.

At this point, we don’t know when the full House Appropriations Committee will meet to take up their version of the bill, so please make sure to contact your Representative asap.

As we reported on October 1, MDOT’s appropriation in the 2011 transportation budget included boilerplate language related to the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Program and Complete Streets in Section 321 that states,

“In evaluating and awarding enhancement grants, the department shall give preference to applicants which have adopted complete streets policies. In addition, the department shall give preference to enhancement grant applications which further complete streets policy objectives. The department shall report to the house and senate appropriations subcommittees on transportation, and the house and senate fiscal agencies, on or before March 1, 2011, on the specific actions taken to comply with the intent of this section.”

Complete Streets was an easy fit into TE Program criteria as Complete Streets objectives and TE projects are both aimed at producing an enhanced transportation network that plays an important role in the livability of our communities. The Complete Streets legislation advanced the importance of cooperation and coordination among transportation agencies and stakeholders to consider the context of the area and stakeholder needs when developing transportation projects.

Amber Thelen, MDOT’s TE Program Manager said “The TE Program looks forward to the successful transportation projects and potential TE projects that will come from this type of project development process.”

As a result, MDOT  has updated the TE project competitiveness factors to include Complete Streets. Specifically, the following items were added as factors that make a project competitive for TE funding:

  • “Projects identified as a result of a community’s Complete Streets stakeholder involvement process.”
  • “Projects supporting a community’s Complete Streets policy…”

These updated factors are included on page 2 of the, “Project Competitiveness Details” document found at www.michigan.gov/tea.

MDOT has also proposed changes to their updated online grant application per this screen shot. The updated online grant application system will be implemented next year. In the meantime, applicants who have Complete Streets policies are asked to provide information about their policy and how the proposed TE project supports this policy within “Attachment A” (the narrative section) of the current online grant application.

Applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposed project with a grant coordinator before starting an application. A map and contact information for the grant coordinators is available at www.michigan.gov/tea, under “Contact Us.”

Questions can be directed to:

Amber Thelen
TE Program Manager
Michigan Department of Transportation Office of Economic Development
(517) 241-1456
thelena@michigan.gov



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