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Road to Ruin: A Transportation Bill Roundup

by Stacey Moses

Since he introduced his proposal for the next surface transportation re-authorization bill late last week, John Mica (R-FL) has become public enemy number one in the bicycle advocacy world as well as in many other interest groups that would suffer from this proposed drastic reduction in transportation funding. The new bill calls for a 33% budget reduction from the previous transportation bill.

John Mica (R-FL)According to the League of American Bicyclists, the proposal that was announced by Mica, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House, “eliminates dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourages states from choosing to spend dollars on these activities that are ‘not in the federal interest.’” The League has been on the offensive fighting this proposal, and League President Andy Clarke has not minced words when addressing the issue.

Whether the next transportation bill is $200 billion or $400 billion is frankly less important than what is done with that kind of investment. Mica’s ‘New Direction’ proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American’s real choices. Even with a ’small’ bill, returning to a 1950’s highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can’t even afford to maintain, let alone build.

The League calls on Chairman Mica to reinstate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking in his bill. We also ask that the Senate resist the efforts of Senator Inhofe eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. In addition to being healthy activities, bicycling and walking are valid transportation options, with more than four billion bike trips made annually for trips to work, school, and tourism. Furthermore bicycling and walking projects have the potential to create 46 percent more jobs per million dollars spent than auto-only projects; and bicycling and walking are critical generators of economic activity in communities across this country. Now is the time to be investing in these modes, not cutting them off just as 20 years of investment is starting to bear fruit.

House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill has also been providing continuous coverage as reactions to the bill continue to pour out of House Democrats, bike advocates and other people that can see and think past the next election cycle.

“From all that we can gather, and from the outlines we’ve seen thus far, it appears this bill can best be described as the Republican road to ruin, ” said Ranking Member Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). “It would undermine our long-term economic competitiveness and jeopardize our economic recovery.”

“This is a cruel imitation of a proposal,” added Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). “This is not a serious proposal. No one would really propose that districts get a third of what they got last time.”

Mica has been the target of a healthy amount of negative press, but the League, on behalf of all cyclists, is asking for help and support to ensure that Congress understands that this bill is bad for infrastructure and bad for the economy in the long run. There is a difference between desperate, shortsighted budget reductions for political gain and responsible spending to improve the lives of all Americans that benefit directly and indirectly from improvements in infrastructure.

A final word from Andy, distributed via email on July 12, 2011:

The League, with our partners in the America Bikes coalition, is working around the clock to ensure that the next transportation bill includes bicycling. We need your donation today to help us impress on Congress that cycling matters, and investments in cycling pay. Over the next few weeks, League staff and members like you will be on Capitol Hill to meet with our allies and our opponents; those meetings also need to be coordinated in the home districts of members of Congress. We need to monitor the progress of the bill, and issue further action alerts as needed to earn critical votes.  We need your support to make this grassroots effort work.


Click here to contact your members of Congress about the Transportation Bill

 
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10 Responses to “Road to Ruin: A Transportation Bill Roundup”

  1. Celsius1414 says:

    Funny how clear both the sky and the freeway are in that “A New Direction” cover photograph. What a bunch of hooey.

  2. BluesCat says:

    As a bicyclist, I know that I am considered a second-class citizen by Americans of the Republican Persuasion. I have accepted that fact and — considering the wackos in the Tea Party — take a certain glee in knowing they will always disregard me and dismiss my concerns; it allows me to stay under the target radar of some of their nonsense.

    You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

    It also allows me to smile with a certain grim satisfaction. When the Republican party disrespects such a large proportion of the American population in this manner, it is only a matter of time before some people who count wake up … and clean their clock in an election.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Notice that in that amateurishly done cover of the Republican proposal that the horizon is tilting to the left. It’s a secret message from the intern who created that graphic in Powerpoint.

      And isn’t that a Freemason symbol created by the support beams and overpasses of that freeway.

      Now I’m really confused. Better call Prof. Langdon.

  3. Ted Johnson says:

    The League of American Bicyclists are tactful and diplomatic to a fault–hesitant to make the opponents of cycling projects look foolish, when foolish is what they are.

    The cover of their proposal could have been produced by The Onion. They are begging to be ridiculed. I think the League should oblige them.

    Check out “The Exquisite Irony of the House GOP Transpo Bill Cover” from Streetsblog.

  4. Stacey Moses says:

    To be fair, Andy Clarke, the president of the League, did directly call for a reinstatement of bicycling and walking funding, and stated that the proposal “flies in the face of fiscal responsibility.” As a League member, I’ve received two emails from the organization in the past week calling for immediate action.

    I think that there is value is being diplomatic and not appearing to be a nutty advocate in the opposite vein when approaching these issues, but this proposal requires some serious uproar from many different groups.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      I agree. If you are diplomatic 99 percent of the time, it makes the one-percent rebuke all the more stinging.

      In the LAB HQ, they must have their stinger in a glass case on the wall labeled, “In case of congressional idiocy, break glass.” I like to at least imagine Andy Clarke eyeing that stinger from his desk and wondering, Maybe now is the time.

      And maybe I vastly overestimate the influence of LAB. Perhaps that sting would go unnoticed by Congress. Perhaps if it were noticed at all, it would be the first time the elected representatives noticed that LAB existed, and the mental note would be, LAB = nutty advocate.

      Here’s that link again to contact/sting Congress yourself.

  5. BluesCat says:

    “Notice that in that amateurishly done cover of the Republican proposal that the horizon is tilting to the left…”

    LOL! Not only that, but all the columns in that freeway traffic interchange are also tilting left!

    Now, lemme tell ya, I’ve worked in and around civil engineering and heavy highway construction for most of my 45+ years of working life, and I’ve NEVER seen columns built that way.

    If the “new direction” for the Repubs is to start doin’ it that way, I can’t think of a single industry expert who’ll be on board!

  6. Ted,

    Did you read all of Andy’s letter?

    http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Size-Doesn-t-Matter–Transportation-Bill-Must-Offer-Choices.html?soid=1102316596448&aid=8TPq4LSTqaU

    Here’s another part of it:

    “Chairman Mica and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) are hell-bent on cutting out funding for anything other than cars and trucks, seemingly oblivious to the disastrous impacts of 60 years of sprawl, air pollution, congestion, dependence on foreign oil and millions of needless highway fatalities. That’s out of touch with what Americans want and is so deliberate that it smacks of vindictiveness rather than sound policy. The reality is that Americans want choice. At the individual, community and national level we need more people bicycling and walking rather than less. We need fewer people trapped in a system that forces them to make even the shortest trips by car because there are no safe alternatives. We need robust and dedicated funding for transit, bicycling and walking to keep up with the demand for these critical modes of transportation.

    The reality is that bicycling and walking make up 12 percent of all trips today despite decades of under-investment in these two modes. In combination with transit, they take on even more importance; and sadly bicyclists and pedestrians account for 14 percent of all fatal traffic crash victims on our nation’s highways. That’s a national tragedy we can’t afford to ignore. Programs such as the Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails programs have proven to be cost-effective, popular and successful programs in improving safety and offering real choices to Americans. And they make up just 1.5 percent of transportation spending over the past 20 years.”

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @Darren: No, I hadn’t read that. That’s good stuff and much stronger than the quote that Stacey put in this post.

      That’s out of touch with what Americans want and is so deliberate that it smacks of vindictiveness rather than sound policy.

  7. Chris Stefan says:

    While I’m someone who frequently uses bicycles for transportation and recreation I’m much more involved in transit advocacy than bike advocacy.

    The proposed House GOP transportation bill is no friend to transit and would represent a drastic reduction in Federal transit funding.

    In general the goals of transit advocates, rail advocates, cycling advocates, and in general anyone who isn’t for making life easier for single occupancy 4 wheel vehicles are in general complementary.

    Those in the cycling advocacy community would do well to team with organizations and companies who lobby for more transit spending to help get a more reasonable transportation bill out of Congress.

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