FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SENATE TRANSPORTATION BILL NEEDS WORK TO KEEP TRAIL BUILDING ON TRACK
WASHINGTON, D.C. MAP-21, the bipartisan transportation bill scheduled for mark-up in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee tomorrow, November 9, must be significantly improved to meet the demand and need for networks of trails and other bicycling and walking facilities.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) seeks a transportation reauthorization that provides balanced transportation choices for Americans. Critical to such balance is dedicated investment in active transportation to ensure that walking and bicycling—the most cost-effective, affordable and healthy types of transportation—can continue to grow in communities across the country.
While RTC respects the process of compromise necessary to move forward with a transportation bill, Transportation Enhancements and other core programs that support trails, bicycling and walking have become an inexplicable point of contention.
Rail-trails, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and other improvements to our transportation system supported by Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program are sorely needed and wildly popular in communities across the country. "For a tiny sliver of transportation funds—less than 2 percent-- these programs have provided affordable, healthy transportation options, generated jobs and economic development, and preserved historic and environmental assets that provide the quality of life that Americans want and deserve," says Kevin Mills, vice president of program at RTC. "Transportation Enhancements are the unmitigated success story of federal transportation policy for the past 20 years," adds RTC President Keith Laughlin.
The bill needs work in the following areas:
- The new eligible uses of funds will undercut investment in trails, bicycling and walking. The bill forces these uses to compete for the first time with expenses that states must incur by regulation or routine maintenance, such as wetland banking or mowing, as well as with some road-oriented investments.
- Reduced funding for active transportation will hamper efforts to create safe and convenient routes for walking and bicycling. In the context of a bill that increases overall funding, cutting programs that deliver superior value is unwise.
- A provision enabling states to redirect funds away from trails, bicycling and walking if they remain unspent for a period appears to create a perverse incentive not to invest in active transportation.
RTC applauds amendments to address some of these issues, including ones from committee leaders narrowing the road-oriented uses of the funds, Senator Cardin seeking to increase funding and opportunities for communities to compete for funds, and Senator Merkley seeking a dedicated level of funding for walking and bicycling investment.
Building on these efforts, RTC will continue to work with committee leadership, other senators and our constituents to address our concerns so that Congress can move forward with a balanced reauthorization bill.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 150,000 members and supporters, is the nation's largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.railstotrails.org.