Dear 2010 Campaign Advocate,
First, as promised in our last e-mail, please see our detailed analysis of the draft Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009.
Please read through this entire e-mail carefully. There are many important points pertinent to the campaign, including two specific actions we ask of you (see The House and The Senate, below).
Since the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released its draft transportation bill last month, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been working to identify ways to advance the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation. Our analysis shows that the House bill would promote active transportation on a number of fronts, such as creating an Office of Livability to bring focus and attention to bicycling and walking programs. We have praised these advances, but we see room for important improvements to the bill. Specifically, we are concentrating on the need to provide a clear pathway to deliver focused investments to build integrated active transportation systems—the goal of the 2010 Campaign.
The politically sensitive issue of bill timing hangs over this task. The Obama Administration and the Senate are advancing an 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU; they believe this delay will help them to develop a transformative bill. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee introduced and passed an extension bill yesterday, July 15. The House T&I Committee has been adamant that the bill should be done now, but they recently decided not to press forward with committee consideration of the bill in July. Indications point to the likelihood that the House will eventually propose a shorter-term delay, perhaps six months, to buy time to determine how to pay for their bill.
While an extension could harm existing programs, it would also provide us additional time to press for the inclusion of an Active Transportation Investment Fund. Look for Congress to ‘patch’ a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund before the August recess, and to decide about an extension before SAFETEA-LU sunsets on September 30, 2009.
Our next steps are critical, but there appears to be time to proceed in a thoughtful and strategic manner. Aspects of our evolving strategy for which we ask you to act include:
1. Work to get Active Transportation Investment Fund into transportation reauthorization
The House: RTC is working to engage T&I committee leadership in a conversation about when and under what circumstances they may be willing to move this approach forward. While much of this effort will unfold behind the scenes, an opportunity for grassroots intervention will be during the upcoming congressional recess (Aug. 7-Sept. 7).
Your primary focus at this point should be to convince your representative to communicate to leaders of the House T&I Committee (when Congress reconvenes in September) that creating an Active Transportation Investment Fund is a priority for the transportation authorization. For many of you, the best way to pursue this goal is to engage your representative in a face-to-face meeting in-district during the recess. In meeting with local elected officials or other leaders who can most persuasively make the case to your representative, you will want to convey:
- Your concern at the absence of an Active Transportation Investment Fund—perhaps the item of greatest value to your community—in the current draft bill. Please emphasize the need for concentrated investments to realize a significant shift of trips to walking and bicycling.
- Your community’s preparedness to implement such programs given deep local commitment, the opportunity to shift large percentages of trips to walking and bicycling, and the ensuing benefits you expect will accrue.
Materials you should consider delivering to your representative at this meeting should include:
- Your local case statement (with supporting documents, such as letters of support);
- RTC’s "Active Transportation for America" report (Please contact Kartik Sribarra with requests for formal, bound copies of the report for such a meeting);
- Any local media or recent support pieces;
- Other materials you think will help make the case to your representative.
The Senate: RTC sees tremendous opportunity for campaign communities to engage directly in our effort to get an Active Transportation Investment Fund into the initial draft of the Senate’s reauthorization bill. The Senate’s bill may be introduced early in 2010. We urge you to begin developing a strategy to stage "Show Your Senator" field trips in the fall of 2009 to demonstrate the importance of active transportation to your community, and the compelling work you could do with focused federal investments. Consider:
- Where would you hold it (consider whether there are multiple communities in your state that are involved in the campaign)?
- Are there special opportunities in October or November to engage your senators directly?
- What existing and potential future projects would you showcase?
- Who ought to be involved to make a strong impression?
RTC will be in touch with further guidance on this process, but it is not too early to start planning.
If you identify specific opportunities for a “Show Your Senator” event during Congress’ August recess, please contact RTC to discuss how we may assist your effort.
2. Take advantage of existing funding sources
As we indicated previously, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides two opportunities in particular to jumpstart implementation of your active transportation plans. A short-term boost in Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding supports projects that are ready to be built now. Further, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) discretionary grants could fund extensive infrastructure development between February 2010 and February 2012.
We hope this information was helpful. Again, please stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and months, including greater instructions and guidelines to aid your efforts to host “Show Your Senator” events this fall. Please contact RTC Policy Outreach Manager Kartik Sribarra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.974.5111 with any questions.