Partisanship triumphs once again
DATELINE: 8:41 a.m. Feb. 3 –
The bill contains changes to two of the three core programs for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure; one program remains intact:
1) The Recreational Trails program is consistent with the structure under SAFETEA-LU. Funding is established at $85 million for each of fiscal years 2013 – 2016.
2) The Safe Routes to School Program is eliminated in its entirety.
Eliminating the SRtS program means the loss of $180 million per fiscal year for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects to support walking and bicycling as modes of transportation for children to school, as well as the established institutional support of the SRtS coordinators at each state DOT.
3) The Transportation Enhancement activities remain eligible under the Surface Transportation Program, but the 10 percent set-aside of apportioned funds is stricken.Eliminating dedicated funding for transportation enhancement activities means these projects will have to “compete” for prioritization with all other surface transportation projects in regional and state planning processes. The following activities which were eligible under SAFETEA-LU are eliminated:
a. Acquisition of scenic or historic easements, including battlefields
b. Historic preservation
c. Rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation facilities
d. Preservation of abandoned railway corridors
e. Establishment of transportation museums
These five categories combined comprise 24% of all state DOT project programming of TE activities since 1992. Eliminating these activities will significantly restrict the flexibility state DOTs have relied upon in the past to enhance the nation’s surface transportation system. This is especially true for the two most popular activities of these five singled out for elimination, rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation facilities (9.4% of all TE activity) and preservation of abandoned railway corridors (7.2%).
Outside of the three core programs, there are two other noticeable provisions of this bill for pedestrian, bicycle and trail interests:
1) Funding for the CMAQ program is moved to the new “Alternative Transportation Account,” which was previously the Mass Transit Account.
2) The ability of state DOTs to use CMAQ or STP apportionments to fund bicycle and pedestrian coordinator positions is stricken. Eliminating the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator positions represents a huge step backward for state DOTs. It passes more of the burden of administering federal-aid highway programs directly to them.