The news out of Washington DC is grim. The drastically underfunded biking and walking budget has been slashed as much at 60 – 70 percent, and biking and walking advocacy groups appear resigned to accept it.
I’ll let the Bicycle Alliance of Washington fill you in on what this means for our state, but first I want to point you to Bike Portland’s coverage, specifically this horrendous turd:
Another crucial program for funding bike-related projects, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program, has suffered key changes. Congress has stripped the provision that used to prohibit the use of CMAQ funds to construct single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) lanes and additional turn lanes on highways. This means CMAQ funds could go toward widening highways, leaving less money for non-motorized projects.
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You read that right. The number one cause of all our air quality issues—from global climate change to the disproportionate rates of asthma among inner-city youth—will now get extra funding from no other than the air quality mitigation budget.
I have no words. Here’s the Bicycle Alliance:
Lost in today’s historic news of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling is the fact that last night at the eleventh hour, conferees from the US House and Senate came to an agreement on a two-year federal transportation bill. On Friday, Congress will vote on this new transportation bill that reverses years of progress on biking and walking policy and cuts by up to 60 to 70 percent funding for local safety projects such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
The Bicycle Alliance, along with partners nationally are very concerned at the bill’s cuts to funding for popular programs nationwide for Safe Routes to School programs, new sidewalks, and bikeways. At best, programs that previously funded walking and biking will see reduced funding from $1.2 billion per year to only $700 million. Unfortunately, because the new umbrella program called Transportation Alternatives now includes options for states and local governments to use these monies on road projects, and because individual states have the option to opt-out of funding for half of each state’s allocation, the number for walking and biking could dip as low to as $350 million annually.
“This bill means less money for walking and biking and more competition for that money from roads and regulatory projects,” said Bicycle Alliance of Washington statewide policy director Blake Trask. “Not only that, but states can opt-out for up to half of the money. Despite this news, we are optimistic that our leaders from Washington state will continue to invest in these important roadway safety and school programs,” said Trask.
The bill’s 60-70 percent cut in overall funding could mean that only 1% of the transportation budget goes to walking and biking. Given that 14% of all traffic fatalities occur to those on foot and bike, the latest federal funding package will lead to an even larger disparity in the need for safer streets for all roadway users.
“In Washington state, we are lucky that the state has chosen to fund walking and biking more than most states,” said Barbara Culp, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. She added, “we look forward to working with elected leaders and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to ensure that the state government chooses to opt-in for its allotment of walking and biking monies in the coming years. The Bicycle Alliance will continue to advocate for increased funding and we will continue to collaborate with school districts across the state on the wildly successful and dramatically underfunded Safe Routes to School programs.”
Currently 4 out of every 5 school applicants in Washington state do not receive Safe Routes to School program support due to a lack of funding.
To sum up, the transportation bill:
- Cuts available walking and biking monies by up to two-thirds
- Eliminates dedicated Safe Routes to School funding
- Weakens local control by allowing states to opt-out for half of available walking and biking dollars
- Makes biking and walking compete with new expensive programs for roads and environmental mitigation in the now conflated Transportation Alternatives program