Dear Campaign Advocate,
Two weeks ago, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) received notice that U.S. Senator John McCain (Ariz.) was planning to introduce an amendment to an appropriations bill that would strike at the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. In addition to being our nation’s primary funding source for trails, walking and bicycling, TE is also a critical funding source for historic preservation and environmental mitigation related to transportation.
While we have grown accustomed to attacks on the TE program as a whole, this amendment was different. Sen. McCain’s proposal targeted seven of the 12 eligible TE categories, but it left funding intact for trail, walking and bicycling. That Sen. McCain left these programs untouched might on the surface have seemed like a small victory, but this move could in truth have profound implications for TE. By attempting to sideline active transportation advocates, we believe that Sen. McCain was hoping to “divide and conquer” TE, ultimately eliminating the entire program once key aspects of its support base had been neutralized.
Working with more than a dozen partners, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Trust, the National Recreation and Park Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Planning Association, the Trust for Public Land and environmental groups, we helped organize and present a strong unified voice to the Senate in support of these core programs. RTC delivered a packet of information to each Senate office last week before the scheduled vote. The packet included a letter advising a vote against the amendment, a pie chart demonstrating that the targeted “landscaping and scenic beautification” category is a primary source of funding for improving conditions for pedestrians, and a fact sheet of some of the hundreds of Amtrak stations around the country rehabilitated using TE funding.
Although this attack from Sen. McCain created a tense conflict, it may have done our movement a favor by bringing many of the diverse stakeholders of the TE program together to defend this enormously beneficial, efficient and popular program in the years to come.
For more information about TE, please visit the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse (NTEC). NTEC is an information service jointly funded by RTC and the Federal Highway Administration to provide professionals, policy makers and the public with detailed information on TE.
Thank you to all of our partners who aided in the process. Additionally, Senators Boxer (Calif.) and Begich (Alaska) delivered impassioned floor speeches against the amendment and deserve great credit for their support. Please express your thanks to either senator if you are a constituent or otherwise have the opportunity to do so.
Vice President of Program