Dear Campaign Advocate,
Following last week’s message providing specific bicycle and pedestrian funding details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this e-mail provides guidelines on key (and very time-sensitive) actions you can take to promote spending of recovery dollars on active transportation in your state. Additionally, see this Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) Frequently Asked Questions page, which is updated as new information becomes available.
Yesterday, America Bikes, a coalition of national bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups of which Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a proud member, sent a letter to all governors encouraging them to prioritize bicycle and pedestrian projects with your state’s recovery dollars. (See a sample letter.) While these letters put the states on notice that we will closely watch their performance, local- and state-level advocates are best positioned to influence whether states prioritize Transportation Enhancements (TE) and other bicycle and pedestrian projects in the rush to spend recovery funds.
Accordingly, please take the following actions:
1. Urge your governor and state DOT to take steps to obligate 100 percent of mandatory Transportation Enhancements (TE) funds within the time constraints of the bill.
2. Prioritize walking and bicycling projects within the following discretionary sources:
- Surface Transportation Program money ($26 billion nationally, after $800 million is required to be set aside for TE), is called “highway” money by many states, but all of the funds are flexible and can be spent on transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects.
- Of fiscal stabilization funding ($53.6 billion nationally), states must use 18.2 percent ($9.7 billion) for public safety and government services. One eligible activity is funding K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to meet green building standards, including bicycle and pedestrian facilities and access to the school.
- An eligible spending category of the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant Program ($3.2 billion nationally) is bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Community Development Block Grant funds ($1 billion nationally) are meant to address a wide range of community development needs.
Additional targets for your outreach could include your MPO, county commission, and city council. Direct contact with these decision-makers is critical at this juncture. A complete strategy might include issuing an action alert to your constituents and members.
The above-mentioned sample governor letter has more details on these and other important points.
As explained in last week’s message, states must spend 50 percent of TE funds within 120 days of fund distribution*, which must legally occur by March 10, 2009. The remaining funds must be spent within one year of this distribution date. Monies not spent within the prescribed timeframes will be withdrawn from delinquent states and redistributed to others that have met the time constraints. Since state officials are likely making their decisions very quickly, it is crucial that we act immediately.
Please contact us with any results specific to your state so we can track progress on a national level. And, as always, please e-mail us with any questions.
* There is currently some confusion among states as to whether TE is subject to the 120-day clock. This remains the most likely interpretation, and confirmation is expected shortly from U.S. DOT. To ensure that bicycle and pedestrian funds are not withdrawn, we encourage you to assume the same in your advocacy efforts.