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Excerpted testimony from the September 11, 2007 Congressional Record
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I share Senator Coburn's concern for our Nation's bridges, but I must oppose his amendment. We cannot fund our Nation's infrastructure on the backs of crucial road safety projects that save tax dollars and lives.
The Senator's amendment specifically eliminates crucial funding for bike and pedestrian trails in Illinois and across the country. His amendment will have seriously adverse consequences for millions of Illinois residents.
The Federal transportation programs do provide flexible funding for States and localities to set aside Federal money for bike and walking trails, yet States tend to fund trails as a last resort--only if they can't use that money for roads and intersections.
For example, in fiscal year 2006, States rescinded $602 million of Transportation Enhancements funds, 15 percent of all rescissions in that year. A more proportional share would have been closer to 3 percent. The Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program, or CMAQ, accounts for approximately 4-5 percent of highway apportionments each year but CMAQ funds have accounted for about 20 percent of total highway funds rescinded in recent years.
CMAQ and Transportation Enhancements are the major sources of funding for bicycle facilities in cities and communities across the country. Given such drastic rescissions at the State level, communities are increasingly approaching Congress for help to fund their local trail construction and expansion projects. Incorporating bike and pedestrian trails and access into transportation systems and planning is essential for safety. Bicycling and walking currently account for 10 percent of trips and 13 percent of fatalities nationally, but receive less than 2 percent of Federal transportation funds.
In Illinois, such fatalities are worse than the national average. For example, 15.1 percent of traffic deaths in Illinois in 2000-2001 were people on foot or bicycle. It is no coincidence that Illinois' numbers of pedestrian and bike fatalities were so high at that time, considering that we did not spend any of our Federal safety dollars on bicycle or pedestrian projects between 1998-2001.
With that lack of investment, this is no time to cut funding. The U.S. Department of Transportation knows this as well. In its policy statement entitled Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach, the U.S. DOT states:
"There is no question that conditions for bicycling and walking need to be improved in every community in the United States;" it is no longer acceptable that 6,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are killed in traffic every year, that people with disabilities cannot travel without encountering barriers, and that two desirable and efficient modes of travel have been made difficult and uncomfortable. My hometown of Springfield, IL, has been trying to keep pace with trail access and pedestrian safety even while the road system is growing. The Interurban Trail was started several years ago with assistance from State, Federal and local resources. Approximately 5 miles in length, the trail extends from Springfield to the Village of Chatham with little to no vehicular cross traffic or intersections.
I have been on the trail and let me tell what I see. People on bikes, hikers, joggers, walkers, moms and dads with strollers. The community loves the trail. The Springfield Park District estimates tens of thousands of users each year. Regional planners are building on the Interurban Trail as the starting point for future development of other trails, including the Sangamon Valley Trail. And it's not just recreational. Many residents of Chatham and Springfield use this trail system as an alternative to roads for commuting to and from work.
Unfortunately, a major new construction project to extend MacArthur Boulevard threatens the Interurban Trail. The Interurban Trail needs to be relocated because of the construction and several new high speed intersections. This proposed amendment would mean the bike and walking trails in Springfield either shut down or go through new, high-speed intersections that we know statistically are likely to result in loss of life. This amendment would be a huge step backward for safety in transportation.
The CDC has shown that since the mid-70s, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children. Data from two CDC surveys show that among adults, the prevalence of obesity increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 33 percent in 2004. A 2003 study shows that by the age of 40, a nonsmoking obese woman loses 7.1 years of life expectancy, and a nonsmoking obese man loses 5.8 years. And the obesity epidemic is spreading to our children at an alarming rate. In 2004, an estimated 9.9 million children and teens were considered overweight. They are taking in too many empty and fat-laden calories and not exercising enough.
Moreover, physical activity need not be strenuous to be beneficial. For example, CDC research shows that adults benefit tremendously from moderate exercise, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week. Multilane roads have replaced sidewalks and bike paths. Children's play spaces are far away or unsafe. Designing communities so that children have ample opportunity for physical activity is in our country's best interests. These bike and trail projects promote exercise and healthy physical activity like biking, walking and running. They also give people the option of walking or biking to get to work, school or shop. Manteno, IL, is working to accomplish just that. The village of Manteno has developed a plan to create a village-wide trail system to connect existing parks, schools, and community-use buildings.
The project proposes 15,000 linear feet of a 10-foot-wide trail for walking, for bicycles and for wheelchairs. The north section will connect county Highway 9 to Lake Manteno Road and Maple Street--creating access to three of the town's four public schools where none now exist. Having already installed nearly 3,000 feet of trails and raised nearly $130,000 to continue the project, the trail system will promote alternate forms of transportation throughout the village. The village of Manteno supports this trail funding, including the village chamber of commerce, the school district, the Village President, the village trustees, and the local Parks and Recreation Commission.
Given our increasing dependence on foreign oil and increasing traffic congestion, we need bike and pedestrian trails to save gas and minimize congestion. These bike and trail projects can spur economic development and bring increased economic activity and tourism for a small investment. The Grand Illinois Trail, GIT, is a great example. This Trail was first conceived of in the mid-1990s by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is overwhelmingly supported by cities and villages, forest preserve and conservation districts, as well as commerce and community-based organizations.
The Grand Illinois Trail is a loop that circles northern Illinois stretching from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and back--over 500 miles in all. It encompasses smaller trails such as the Great River Trail in Savanna, IL, and the GIT Carbon Cliff. Approximately 90 percent of the route is in place and you can bike, hike, horseback ride, cross country ski, snowmobile, and canoe through the scenic landscape of northern Illinois and along Chicago's Lakefront, Illinois' beautiful rivers, historic canals and scenic country roads. One goal of this loop trail is to ensure safe passage from one local trail to the next. In Savanna, IL, a new trail leading to town is cut off from the highly popular Great River Trail by a frightening 1.4 mile stretch of Illinois 84--a real safety issue for bicyclists and hikers using the trail. The Grand Illinois Trail is supported by the Illinois Departments of Commerce and Community Affairs and Transportation, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Illinois Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, The League of Illinois Bicyclists, the Illinois Trail Riders and the Illinois Association of Park Districts.
Trails are becoming common in residential neighborhoods. Development plans for homes, apartments, and townhouses often include footpaths to enhance recreational opportunities and property values. Bike and pedestrian trails bring customers to local businesses and have been used as cheap, effective ways to spur downtown redevelopment across the country. A modest investment into bike-friendly design can bring huge economic benefits. Aurora, IL, is nearing completion of the Fox River Trail in northern Illinois. The last gap in the region's 50+ mile Fox River Trail is in downtown Aurora. Elgin, a village close in size and location to Aurora, completed its Fox River Trail gap to help spur successful downtown redevelopment. Similarly, Naperville, IL, has over 100 people biking to their commuter rail station daily, partly due to their bike network. Aurora wants to repeat these successes.
This amendment would take away an important economic tool and would bring decreased investment and economic activity to towns that need it. Tailpipe emissions from automobiles and trucks account for almost half of Chicago's air pollution, contributing to asthma and other respiratory problems suffered by more than 650,000 people in Metropolitan Chicago. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has noted the benefits of alternative modes of transportation for reducing transportation emissions while also reducing traffic congestion.
The 2001 U.S. National Household Travel Survey tells us that in metropolitan areas more than 40 percent of trips are two miles or less--a very manageable bike ride and more than one-quarter are just one mile or less. Furthermore, the data shows that within the 28 percent of the trips that are one mile or less in urbanized areas, 66 percent are made by car. These short trips are the most polluting and the easiest to switch to bicycling.
At a time when these communities are seeking to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, increase the safety of their neighborhoods, and decrease petroleum dependence, bicycles offer a relatively simple, energy-saving alternative to driving. Bicycles have no carbon emissions and don't contribute to smog. If each of the three million households in northeastern Illinois walked or biked just one mile every day, we would reduce daily vehicle emissions by more than 1800 kilograms.
Senator COBURN has called these projects pork-barrel spending. This flies in the face of the overwhelming local support for these modest projects. Bike and pedestrian projects have the most support from the communities back home, from the block associations and bike groups who use the streets and know that without this Federal investment, the streets will continue to not be adequate to walk, jog, or bike on.
Beyond community support, these trails actually connect communities. Look at the trail along the Calumet River in Chicago's Southland. This project, referred to as the Cal-Sag Trail, is a 26-mile nonmotorized corridor that is carved into racial and socio-economic chunks along the alignments of major transportation corridors: major streets and intersections, expressways, rail lines, the Calumet-Sag itself.
These transportation facilities are also barriers when they serve as convenient boundaries when planning housing, economic opportunities, school affiliations, and other issues related to quality life. The Cal-Sag Trail has the potential to help cross all of those lines, connecting many types of neighborhoods that exist in the regions, allowing anyone, regardless of ability or background, free passage to resources and opportunities--it will be the first trail development in the region that raises the social equity of all the communities it serves.
A majority of the public--53 percent--favors increasing Federal spending to build more bike paths for easier and safer bicycling, even if it means fewer gas-tax dollars go to building roads. Half of the public--50 percent--favors requiring new road construction and maintenance projects to include bicycle paths, even if it would mean less room for cars and trucks. And the projects that the Senator intends to cut come to us directly from the people who do not have the usual flashy, well-funded advocacy campaigns we are used to here in the Congress.
This was very apparent during debate of the last transportation bill. Of the 1,912 registered lobbyists affiliated with the Transportation bill, only three represented bicycling. They didn't need lobbyists because we all heard from the local citizens and small businesses on the street about the need for us to make our roads and streets safer. And we incorporated that need into the last transportation bill and these projects continue that effort.
Besides those who bike by choice, Government agencies should have an obligation to make transportation safer for those who bike--or walk--out of necessity--often for economic--or age--reasons. 8.3 percent of American households do not own cars, including 26.5 percent of those with incomes under $20,000--2001 National Household Travel Survey. Transit is not the entire answer for these people--many of whom rely on bikes to get around. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this amendment.
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Updated October 15, 2007
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