Biking & Walking Lose in New Senate Transportation Bill

Late on Friday, November 4, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) published its proposal for the next federal transportation bill, called MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). The 600-page bill will be marked-up in committee on Wednesday, November 9. The proposed legislation makes significant changes to the core, dedicated funding programs for bicycling and walking activities.

  • The current dedicated funding programs for bicycling and walking (Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails program) are combined into one program, with significantly less funding.
  • An expanded list of eligible activities are added to this smaller funding pot, including such big-ticket items as NEPA compliance and land acquisition for wetland mitigation.
  • The proposed bill effectively allows states to completely opt out of the program and would allow all this money to be redirected to highway construction.

Originally, the bill also lumped highway and street construction projects, including high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, as part of the expanded eligible activities. On Tuesday, Senator Boxer received bipartisan support for an amendment that will remove all but one of the road uses (NEPA & wetlands).   While this is a positive step, there is still a lot of work to do. The America Bikes Coalition hopes to continue to make changes by working with Boxer and EPW staff to restore dedicated funding in the bill.

Please read America Bike Response to the MAP 21 bill.

There will be a “mark up” of the bill on Wednesday, November 9. Usually this would be an opportunity for members of the commitee to offer amendments that would improve the bill, and those amendments would be debated and voted on. However, Wednesday’s Committee mark up is being backed by  the “Big 4,” Senators Boxer (D-CA), Inhofe (R-OK), Baucus (D-MT) and Vitter (R-LA) who have stated they will vote together as a bloc to stop any amendment on either side from passing.

The Boxer amendment will pass because she has gotten the support of leadership.

Several other members on the committee that support bicycle and pedestrian investment have filed amendments to improve the language for active transportation.   Depending on time they may be offered, discussed and then withdrawn before a vote is taken.  These amendments include:

  • Senator Cardin (D- MD). His amendment addresses several concerns with the Active Transportation section of the bill, including removing road uses, increasing funding levels, as well as sub-allocating funds to local governments, and opening funding to an application process.
  • Senator Merkley (D-OR). Sen. Merkley is introducing a message amendment that requires 2% of all funding go to biking and walking infrastructure and programs.
  • Senator Carper (D-DE) Carper is introducing a CLEAN TEA amendment that sets national energy security goal, requires state/MPO plans to address oil, assesses progress every 5 years
  • Senator Udall (D-NM) Udall’s amendment adds non-motorized users to the list of interested parties in safety and planning processes

As advocates for biking  and walking in the Missoula region, we’re very concerned about what this new bill means for future progress. With so many great opportunities ahead (i.e. the new Missoula Active Transportation Plan and the recently awarded Missoula-Lolo Trail feasibility grant) it seems a cruel injustice to disproportionately attack such a small slice of the federal transportation pie. Especially considering the recent bi-partisan support for biking and walking that was demonstrated by the overwhelming defeat of the Paul Rand amendment to the current transportation bill.

What you can do: Please contact Senator Baucus and let him know you support Senator Cardin’s amendment. Senator Max Baucus:  vog.e1493276798tanes1493276798.sucu1493276798ab@xa1493276798m1493276798  (800) 332-6106.

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