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Our 2 Cents Worth

Dear Friend of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy,

My dictionary defines greedy as "wanting or taking all that one can get, with no thought of others' needs; desiring more than one needs or deserves." I can't think of a better word to describe America's highway industry. I'm not in the habit of throwing such epithets around lightly. Unfortunately, this one is justified.

The federal government currently spends about $31 billion a year on road-related programs. Of that, more than 98 percent is spent on roads, bridges and highways. By comparison, less than 2 cents out of every dollar is spent on programs to encourage trails and other walking or biking facilities. Though small in relation to highway spending, these non-road projects are among the most popular activities funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. No wonder. The federal investment of $330 million in trails and bicycle/pedestrian projects last year provides local benefits to communities throughout America, such as cleaner air, more green space, and safe places for family recreation.

Next year the federal transportation statute will be renewed. At a time of national belt-tightening, the highway industry is insisting that road-related spending increase to at least $40 billion a year. The following quote from an editorial in Better Roads, an industry magazine, gives some indication of the industry's priorities for next year:

"...the highway lobby will undoubtedly make a bigger issue of how much fuel tax revenue gets spent on mass transit, bike paths and other highway-alternative programs. Reducing expenditures for these programs would be unfortunate and untimely, but if we can't afford to feed all the mouths in the transportation nest, we better make it a point to feed the golden goose."

Kirk Landers
Better Roads Vice President and Editorial Director

So there you have it. The highway industry has one big mouth to feed. It apparently is not content with the 98 percent of funding currently targeted for roads. It may also have its eye on the less than 2 cents out of every dollar allocated for trails and other programs that encourage walking and biking.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we will do everything in our power to protect the existing level of federal support for more bikable, walkable communities. But we can't do it alone. We need your support. If you are not yet a member of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, please visit the RTC membership section and join us in this important fight. Together, we will prevail. While the highway industry may be greedy, we are right.

Keith Laughlin

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