The federal government is a big funder of critical transportation infrastructure—including infrastructure and safety improvements for bikes. That’s why we’ve been active at the federal level on the next federal transportation bill. But what the Feds giveth they often take away. State Transportation Departments from across the land occasionally have to send back unspent funds—“rescinding” the funds—to help the USDOT clear the books.
Here’s the rub. The Feds decide how much money each state returns, but the states decide where the money comes from. Some states give back proportionately so that, say, unspent highway funds come back at the same level as ped or bike safety funding. But many states don’t play this way—including Washington state (supposedly the #1 state for bicycling). Instead, a rather disproportionate amount of money comes from things like Transportation Enhancements (TE), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) and Recreational Trails funds—which happen to be the largest buckets for bike and ped projects. In 2010, over $900 million of $2.2 billion was returned from these sources. This is not a slow leak, but a nasty snake bite. Insta-flat.
Where are we now? Last week, they asked for $2.5 billion back, including $43 million from Washington state. By July 8, WSDOT has to fork over the cash. So while we consider how to address this at the legislative level during the 2012 session (we’ve also already talked with several of our congressional members about this), the Governor needs to hear from us before we’re riding our rims to death.
Some say that we should do proportional rescissions so that all programs get equal treatment. This was actually the case back in 2007. But in 2010 and now in 2011 we’re stuck with the threat of huge piles of needed bike funding being taken back while unallocated highway funds remain untouched.
Proportionality is a bare minimum, in my opinion, since bike, ped and transit projects create more jobs compared to highway construction, promote healthy and vibrant communities and reduce our dependence on foreign and domestic oil. Oh yeah, and bike and ped numbers are waaaay up in many places around the region. But despite all of this, 11.6% of all trips (bike/ped) with over 13% of traffic fatalities get only 1.2% of the funding.
Send in the patch kits and lend your voice to the effort. Contact the Governor’s office before July 8 — we’ve made it easy for you.
By the way, for those who really hate flat tires, think of that $43 million that WSDOT has to send back as funding about 10 million bike tubes. Until the rescission threat passes, make sure to carry an extra out there!