Dear Campaign Advocate,
As you may have heard, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released a first draft of the federal surface transportation bill this past Monday. The bill was approved unanimously yesterday (Wednesday) by the House T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. It follows a "Blueprint for Investment and Reform" white paper that was released by the T&I Committee last week. The draft bill does not yet address funding levels or revenue sources, but it does contain many policy and structural advances that will benefit active transportation.
Perhaps foremost among these is the creation of an Office of Livability. This office would be responsible for the full array of active transportation programs (such as Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Safe Routes to School), hopefully bringing greater profile, focus and resources to bicycle, pedestrian and trail efforts. The office would also administer a number of promising initiatives for which Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and America Bikes advocated such as development of mode share targets, improved data collection, comprehensive street design principles, and assistance in implementing innovative active transportation design features.
Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) and the rest of the committee deserve praise for authoring a bill that will better balance our nation’s transportation system. Another promising step in the bill is the sub-allocation of a greater proportion of Surface Transportation Program funding to localities along with a 10% set-aside for TE that local entities will administer.
Yet, the bill notably falls short of realizing RTC’s top objective: a guarantee that the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program will be expanded, the goal of the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation. Instead, under the draft, the existing pilot program would be extended into 2012 and the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to recommend to Congress in March 2012 whether the approach should be expanded into an ongoing, national program.
While we are confident that the evidence would support a mid-course correction in 2012 to achieve our campaign objective, we are not content to wait or to leave the final outcome uncertain. Consequently, we are developing a multi-faceted strategy to improve this aspect of the bill as it works its way through the legislative process.
We know that you are anxious to move the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation forward, so we will soon let you know ways that you can help. Please stay tuned for an increased frequency in communications from RTC over the coming weeks and months, including a more detailed bill analysis.
Keep in mind a few major issues that will unfold this summer:
--T&I is planning to work with the House Ways and Means Committee in July to forge a finance proposal for the reauthorization;
--the Highway Trust Fund is in need of an infusion of new funds by August; and
--a debate is brewing over extending SAFETEA-LU, with the White House (and key senators) calling for an 18-month delay for the new bill, and House T&I Committee members adamantly opposed to this delay.
Remember that you do not necessarily have to wait for this to be sorted out to jumpstart implementation of your local active transportation plans. The economic recovery bill increases your federal funding options, with additional TE money available now, and an application process for grants for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER discretionary grants) underway.