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House transportation funding bill would eliminate trails and bike/ped programs

From Stuart Macdonald, National Association of State Trail Administrators

Rep. Mica and the House Transportation Committee released an outline of a "Transportation Reuthorization Proposal" on July 7. According to the August 5 issue of Federal Parks & Recreation, "A House Transportation Committee spokesman confirmed that mark-up on a bill won’t happen until September. This staffer said the fleshing out of the bill “continues to be a work in progress.” Indeed, it is understood the committee still must make a dozen or more key policy decisions."

Some key points from the Mica proposal:

No date for the release of Rep. Mica's actual House bill has been set, though it had been expected as early as July 11. The apparent goal, however, it to get some kind of proposal underway. In order for any transportation legisslation to be passed this fiscal year it has to be dealt with this summer in order to go to Conference with Senate in September. When th bill does appear, it will be quickly followed by markup, when the committee meets to debate and consider amendments.

The Coalition for Recreational Trails held a conference call this afternoon to discuss strategies for RTP-- which point to offering an amendment to fund RTP during markup. This would require serious commitment from enough members of Congress to challenge Rep. Mica's austere budget. While 74 members of Congress signed the recent "Dear Colleague" letter supporting RTP funding, they may bow to what they see as political realities.

A variety of groups are urging people to speak out for these programs. While it's not clear when and what kind of grassroots action might be effective, CRT members are looking at identifying people and projects that might be showcased this summer in key House districts. We'll let you know more about that as soon as possible.

A two-year Senate bill may be introduced in mid-July. Trails and bike/ped facilities have been the subject of debate between the two principal figures on transportation reauthorization. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has talked positively about bicycle transportation while Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, has been widely quoted that he would have an easier time selling to fellow Republicans a highway bill that focuses on roads and bridges. In May, Boxer outlined her goals for the Senate bill, which at that time provided $339 billion over six years for surface transportation. That's the approximate funding level of SAFETEA-LU, the previous bill, adjusted for inflation. The six-year approach is now down to two years on the Senate side.

More about the House proposal:

1. Funding is down - "This proposal ... authorizes approximately $230 billion over six years from the Highway Trust Fund - funding levels consistent with the amount of revenue being collected... In 2010, the Trust Fund brought in $35 billion in revenue, but $50 billion in spending was authorized.... Neither Congress nor the Administration will support an increase in the gas tax. The Trust Fund cannot support a two year bill at current spending levels, as some have proposed...."

2. Trails and Bike/Ped programs--- consolidated or eliminated? - "The proposal also identifies programs that do not serve a federal interest, such as the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program and the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, and eliminates them. Furthermore, states will no longer be required to spend highway funding on non-highway activities. States will be permitted to fund such activities if they choose, but they will be provided the flexibility to identify and address their most critical infrastructure needs."

arrow Download the "Transportation Reuthorization Proposal" (pdf 1.8 mb)

 

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