Federal funding for trails and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure was under assault in the month of September. Senator Tom Coburn R-OK) introduced an amendment that would eliminate funding for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program in the proposed six-month extension of the Federal Surface and Air Transportation bill. The TE program is the nation’s largest funding source for biking and walking infrastructure.
Fortunately, a national advocacy effort reached out to Senators from across the country and helped build support for the TE program which has existed successfully for over 20 years. Eventually, Coburn conceded, but not without creating misconceptions about how much is dedicated to the program (he said 10%; actual is 1.5%) and what the program funds (he claims bike trails and museums while TE supports a vast number of projects that support alternative transportation). Promises from Senator Barbara Boxer, one of the co-authors of the new Senate bill, assure the bicycle and pedestrian community that there will be dedicated funding, however, new threats now loom on the horizon.
Last summer, Representative John Mica, chair of the house Transportation and Infrastructure Committee outlined a proposed bill that would eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs entirely. And more recently, Senator Rand Paul released plans to introduce a bill the will divert TE funds to bridge repair, claiming Kentucky bridges are falling down because of funds diverted to “bike paths” and other beautification projects. Read more about the inaccuracies of these claims on the League of American Bicyclist’s blog (link: http://www.bikeleague.org/blog/2011/09/kentucky-senator-suggests-bikeped-funding-switch/)
Please keep in mind that the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 will expire March 31, 2012. We need your help to ensure dedicated funding remains a part of the next federal bill. Please contact Montana’s national representatives and let them know how vital this program is to Missoula and the five-valley region.
Senator Max Baucus
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Jon Tester
724 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Congressman Dennis Rehberg
2448 Rayburn House Building
Washington, D.C. 20515