Washington State budgets an astronomically higher amount of money on motor-vehicle-centric highway projects than any other means of transportation. Yet when it comes time to make cuts and give back Federal transportation funds, as happens often, WSDOT has in past years reached into the already underfunded pots needed to make bicycling and walking safer, easier and more accessible.
Washington is supposedly the most bike-friendly state in the country, but our state received a “D” in infrastructure in the same survey. Last year, the state raided the “Transportation Enhancements” and “Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality” funds heavily, giving back more than half of their allocated budgets. These funds, which just so happen to fund bicycling and walking projects, made up the majority of the rescissions despite making up a tiny percentage of the total transportation budget.
Last year’s rescissions hurt, and were among the most disproportionate cuts in the entire country. Speak up and tell the Governor we cannot afford to do that again. At the very least, rescissions should be made proportionally across all budget sections.
Cascade Bicycle Club has created a handy tool for sending your message to the governor and all relevant officials. It takes as little as one minute to send your message, so do it now. If you send a personalized message, feel free to copy it in the comments below.
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.