Thursday, September 17, 2009

Senator Webb votes to kill bike/ped funding

Senator Coburn (R-OK) has been trying to kill funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects that are part of the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program for many years. Back in 2007 he tried to strike TE funding from the 2008 Transportation appropriations bill:
"we should not be spending money on bicycle paths for our own leisure, comfort, and exercise when we have bridges that are falling down."
I guess Senator Coburn has never heard of bike commuting or bicycles used for transportation. That effort in 2007 was defeated by a vote of 80-18. The 18 votes in favor were all Republicans.

Sen. Coburn's latest attempt to cut TE funding failed again in the Senate by a much closer vote of 59-39. What is more disturbing is that Virginia's Senator Webb voted with Senator Coburn to kill funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. We suggest that cyclists tell Senator Webb that funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects needs to be increased, that people are demanding better, healthier transportation choices, cleaner air, and safer streets.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking provided some suggested topics for including in your message:
I am concerned by your vote to support Senate Amendment 2371 on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. The amendment would have allowed states to Opt out of the Transportation Enhancement program, which is the main source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Bicycling and Walking are clean and efficient modes of transportation. Currently, bicycling and walking account for 10% of the national mode share and yet receive less than 2% of the surface transportation funding. These cost efficient programs save 1.4 billion gallons of gas a year and 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. At a time when we are looking to address climate change and reduce Green House Gas Emission's (GHG) we should not be cutting funding for biking and walking.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure saves lives. Nationally, 13% of all roadway fatalities involve bicyclists or pedestrians. 41% of pedestrian fatalities occur where crosswalks are not available. Additionally, a recent survey conducted by AARP, shows that 47% of the nation's elderly currently do not feel safe crossing the streets in their neighborhoods.

Building Bicycling and Pedestrian facilities are good for the economy. Building biking and walking infrastructure creates jobs - bike infrastructure is more labor intensive and less material intensive than building roads. Sidewalks and bike lanes make streets and downtowns into destinations for shopping and entertainment. Investing in walking and biking facilities helps local business and is an investment in the local economy.

Please reconsider your support for Transportation Enhancements. This program is vital to providing transportation options for all Americans.
One day bicycle and pedestrian projects will be an integral part of ALL transportation projects and there won't be a need for a separate fund. Until that time, TE funding is vital for building an interconnected pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

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Hugely disappointing vote by Sen. Webb. I will contact him and hope that many others do too.
Would it make sense for FABB (and perhaps other commuter-oriented bicycle advocacy groups) to try and schedule a face-to-face meeting with him to explain the concerns?

I just sent him a note myself via the online form..
We will try to find out Senator Webb's objections to the enhancement program. If he wants reform of the program, we should be in on the conversation. If nothing else, we will try to schedule a meeting with his staff during the Bike Summit next Spring.
A few people including me met with Senator Webb's aides yesterday and we brought this up with his transportation Legislative Assistant. He said 1) Webb is not opposed to the program, and this vote was only for the next year's appropriations in tight times, and 2) the state DOTs and the Governor should ultimately be the ones held accountable for how the money is spent. He also said, "We are absolutely supportive of bike trails."
That's good that he's not opposed to the enhancement program. I also hope his support extends beyond bike trails and includes on-road bike facilities.
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