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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

 

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Inspiring Movement

Dear Campaign Partner,

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday filed a new version of the federal transportation reauthorization bill that is expected to secure enough votes to proceed to a floor debate.

This new Senate bill includes a number of changes that are significant to supporters of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and our many partner organizations working to secure continued funding for walking and biking infrastructure.

Most notably, the Reid draft includes the addition of a modified version of the bipartisan amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), to provide greater local access to Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School funds.

This marks an interim victory for proponents of trails, bicycling and walking, as one of two amendments we have been seeking is now largely reflected in the bill advanced by Senate leaders of both parties.

The amendment would make the following changes to Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School:

·         Decisions about how to allocate funds would be made by competitive grants focused on applications from local governments and other local entities responsible for eligible projects;

·         Metropolitan areas with more than 200,000 residents would select their own projects;

·         Transfer of funds out of the pot that supports these programs would be limited to about 10 percent of those funds. The committee bill passed in November would have allowed the entire pot to be transferred to other uses[K1] ; and 

·         Increase likelihood that dollars will be spent on eligible activities.[K2] 

We are pleased that Senate leaders have decided to improve the process for awarding Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School funds. By giving locals more control over funds and limiting transfers of dollars out of the ‘additional activities’ pot, there will be more opportunities to continue to build trail systems and other facilities that are needed to make it safe and convenient to walk and bicycle.

RTC has made remarkable progress in digging us some way out of what began as a very deep hole. This development, along with the implosion of the deeply-flawed House bill a week ago, puts us in a much better position going forward.

RTC continues to work in the Senate for the Klobuchar/Burr/Shaheen/Risch amendment to reinstate the Recreational Trails Program.

As we reported earlier, leaders in the House of Representatives conceded late last week that there was not sufficient support to advance their version of the transportation bill.  Since then, they have been considering other options to gain majority support.

It appears House leaders could secure additional support by reinstating dedicated funding for transit and Transportation Enhancements, but it is not clear that leadership is willing to make those concessions.

We are eager to continue to work with champions in the House, like Rep. Petri (R-WI), to bolster support and continued funding for our core programs.

It is clear the combined efforts of all advocates for biking, walking and better transportation choices are working. These latest developments are certainly encouraging, though we are aware that much work remains. We look forward to your continued commitment to a more walkable and bikeable America during this crucial time.

Thank you,

Kevin Mills
Vice President, Policy & Trail Development
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday filed a new version of the federal transportation reauthorization bill that is expected to secure enough votes to proceed to a floor debate.

This new Senate bill includes a number of changes that are significant to supporters of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and our many partner organizations working to secure continued funding for walking and biking infrastructure.

Most notably, the Reid draft includes the addition of a modified version of the bipartisan amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), to provide greater local access to Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School funds.

This marks an interim victory for proponents of trails, bicycling and walking, as one of two amendments we have been seeking is now largely reflected in the bill advanced by Senate leaders of both parties.

The amendment would make the following changes to Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School:

·         Decisions about how to allocate funds would be made by competitive grants focused on applications from local governments and other local entities responsible for eligible projects;

·         Metropolitan areas with more than 200,000 residents would select their own projects;

·         Transfer of funds out of the pot that supports these programs would be limited to about 10 percent of those funds. The committee bill passed in November would have allowed the entire pot to be transferred to other uses[K1] ; and 

·         Increase likelihood that dollars will be spent on eligible activities.[K2] 

We are pleased that Senate leaders have decided to improve the process for awarding Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School funds. By giving locals more control over funds and limiting transfers of dollars out of the ‘additional activities’ pot, there will be more opportunities to continue to build trail systems and other facilities that are needed to make it safe and convenient to walk and bicycle.

RTC has made remarkable progress in digging us some way out of what began as a very deep hole. This development, along with the implosion of the deeply-flawed House bill a week ago, puts us in a much better position going forward.

RTC continues to work in the Senate for the Klobuchar/Burr/Shaheen/Risch amendment to reinstate the Recreational Trails Program.

As we reported earlier, leaders in the House of Representatives conceded late last week that there was not sufficient support to advance their version of the transportation bill.  Since then, they have been considering other options to gain majority support.

It appears House leaders could secure additional support by reinstating dedicated funding for transit and Transportation Enhancements, but it is not clear that leadership is willing to make those concessions.

We are eager to continue to work with champions in the House, like Rep. Petri (R-WI), to bolster support and continued funding for our core programs.

It is clear the combined efforts of all advocates for biking, walking and better transportation choices are working. These latest developments are certainly encouraging, though we are aware that much work remains. We look forward to your continued commitment to a more walkable and bikeable America during this crucial time.


 [K1]It would be nice to give more definition to the percentage. My understanding is that the flex portion is 25% of the amount above the 1997 TE baseline, which might work out to 10-15%.  But I can’t confirm those figures.  Tracy, can you make sense of it?

 [K2]Need to be cagey here in light of uncertainty about how to read shalls and mays, and even under optimistic reading of shalls, I think this is a fine way to hedge.

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037
202.331.9696

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037
+1-202-331-9696