National Bike Summit: The State of The Federal Transportation Bill
In this final installment of my reports on the National Bike Summit, I’m going to do my best to rundown the state of the federal transportation bill(s) and where Hill insiders think things are headed.
Inside the Senate, things are basically concluded for the time being; Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st century, or MAP-21, passed the Senate 74-22-4 (All Democrats voted Yay, Republicans were split close to 50/50 between Yay and Nay). MAP-21 preserves the critical bike/ped funding programs like Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School (SRTS), and Recreational Trails (RTP), consolidating them into one program titled ‘Additional Activities’, which will fall under the operation of CMAQ. While not perfect, MAP-21 is a tremendous victory compared to the House bill put forward by Speaker Boehner.
On the House side, the initial bill, HR-7, put forward by Boehner, cut TE, SRTS, RTP, and gutted transit funding, as well as reducing environmental review processes, and was generally panned by everyone, to the point that the House postponed it indefinitely. After a series of handoffs, the House was left with mostly question marks, and no resolution. As of earlier this week, the vibe amongst House staffers was that the House was not prepared to resolve their issues, knowing that they had little ground to stand on and that bipartisan resolution was less likely than in the Senate. Instead, the sense was that the House would take the easy way out and favor a clean 3-month extension of the expired (5 years ago) SAFETEA-LU. While this would protect TE, SRTS, and RTP, it would mean that in three months we’d be right back to this point, arguing once again for the same programs, and fighting the same political battles.
Given all of this, we devoted our efforts while lobbying on the Hill to thanking Senators Isakson and Chambliss, who both voted in favor of MAP-21, and working to convince our Representatives to step up and either support or advocate for an improved transportation bill out of the House. Optimally, we’re hoping to see the House review and pass their version of MAP-21, which will give us at least five years of funding and provide some stability to transportation planning once again.
Since I attended those meetings for which I was either a constituent or closest to being one (Representatives Scott, Johnson, and Lewis), I had the good fortune of being heard and supported by the Congressmen or his staff; other Georgia delegates had less positive meetings, but the general sentiment seemed to be that all the meetings were more positive than last years, and that the trend over time has been of increased support. Hopefully this will mean good things for bicycling and walking going into the future, not only amongst Georgians, but also across the country.
At least, there is reason for hope!
Thank you all for putting up with the delays on my NBS reports, and feel free to post or email me with any questions, I’d be happy to answer what I can.