Anybody who’s been following the federal transportation drama knows that it’s been a saga of anxiety-provoking bill extensions with continued threats to funding for biking. And then nothing. And then something. And then just kidding.
With your help, we’ve fended some of those threats off and have kept bike funding at current levels—still not nearly enough or equitable as I noted on Monday, but at least not as bloody as a Coen brothers movie.
But boy howdy, here we go. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is poised to rip everything out of the bill for bicycling (and walking) with a vote tomorrow. I give you: the “American Energy and Infrastructure Act.” And it gives you: nothing.
I bet you could have guessed that based on the ‘50s era title page of the summary alone. Let’s see: transportation = oil pipeline + large concrete highway spans all superimposed on an American flag. Um, that’s not my country thank you very much.
The details aren’t any better. The bill looks like it will:
- Kill programs “that do not have a federal interest”—like all bicycling programs. This means eliminating Transportation Enhancements and even Safe Routes to School. Nothing should unite us in a fight like Congress going after kid safety. Let me upgrade my piece on Monday from “Not. Fair.” to “Simply. Disgusting.”
- Reduce city and metro control over funding, giving more of it—“flexibility”—to state DOTs, which, in general, haven’t demonstrated strong support for bicycling
- Gut or eliminate discretionary funds like the very successful TIGER program that Senator Patty Murray helped create
- Squeeze the environmental review process, which will likely mean more impacts to our health and environmental health
If this makes it out of the committee, what next? It’ll go to the House floor for debate and likely get passed. Then the bill would be conferenced with a Senate bill, MAP-21, if MAP-21 is passed by the Senate. I wrote about MAP-21 when it was released in November; it certainly has its share of serious problems, but it doesn’t rip out all bike funding like the House bill.
Why bother with your representative? While we’re not expecting a miracle for it to simply be rewritten or go away, a strong bipartisan showing in the House Transportation Committee means a better chance of working something reasonable out with the Senate. Like something that doesn’t gut bike funding. Like something that keeps our state, cities and towns building the protected bike lanes, cycle tracks and greenways for all of us to reliably and safely get around by bicycle.
And I’d vote for that.