Republicans in both chambers of Congress are seeking to remove funding that traditionally has been focused on bicycle and pedestrian transportation. Democrats are seeking a “clean” bill for approval of transportation funding, clean in the sense that it would not be a change from the current spending funding and formula.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) mistakenly suggested that this funding would save more than 10 percent of the transportation budget. The correct percentage devoted to bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects is 1.5 percent. Boehner also implied incorrectly that the money was mostly used for transportation museums, education activities and operation of historic transportation facilities. Although some funding is related to such worthy endeavors, the vast majority of bicycle and pedestrian funding is used to build bicycle trails and improve pedestrian walkways. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post checks Boehner’s assertions and finds them wanting.
Perhaps Rep. Boehner came to this misbegotten conclusion because his own state of Ohio awarded $115,000 of transportation enhancement money this year to create audio and Web versions of The Ohio Guide, a guidebook produced by writers of the Works Progress Administration during the Depression. Rep. Boehner might easily have assumed that all transportation enhancement funding is going to new New Deal projects such as this rather than the asphalt and steel infrastucture that creates real jobs. Of course, he would still have had to ignore the fact that the new guide is aimed at automotive drivers. Not bicyclists. Not pedestrians.
Perhaps Rep. Boehner should propose getting rid of the percentage of the transportation budget aimed at automotive modes of travel. There’s some savings!
Meanwhile in the Senate, Oklahoma’s two Republican senators are split on a four-month extension of the transportation funding. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has said Republicans will not agree to extending the transportation budget unless funding for bicycling and pedestrians is removed, but Sen. James Imhofe says he will vote for the four-month extension.
A four-month extension, if approved, would allow members of Congress time to work out a two-year transportation budget, and Imhofe says he would prefer that bicycle and pedestrian work not be included in that two-year program.
The League of American Bicyclists and the American Bikes Coalition have both protested the Republican proposal to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian projects from the federal budget. Alice Ollstein and Tanya Snyder of DC-Streetsblog have a good rundown of the events.