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
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;
- Increase likelihood that dollars will be spent
on eligible activities
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.
We have 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
RTC continues to work in the Senate for the
Klobuchar/Burr/Shaheen/Risch amendment to reinstate the Recreational Trails
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
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.
Vice President, Policy & Trail Development