Spring, 2012 Action Center
Defend Trails, Walking and Bicycling
For more than 20 years, the Transportation Alternatives (TA) program has funded locally driven infrastructure projects in cities and towns around the country that improve transportation. Further, the program has become the nation's largest funding source for trail, walking and bicycling projects, providing the backbone to an ever-improving national network of opportunities for people to walk and bike to get where they're going.
Along with TA, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and Safe Routes to School (SRTS) comprise the three core federal trail, walking and bicycling programs. These infrastructure projects positively impact millions of Americans on a daily basis, while saving people money, reducing the federal budget, providing opportunities to exercise, reducing our environmental impact, creating jobs and so much more.
Yet despite these enormous benefits—despite the fact that they cost pennies on the dollar of our nation's transportation spending—despite the fact that they are wildly popular at the local level—despite all this, there is tremendous pressure in the halls of Congress to eliminate these crucial programs.
After a prolonged and heated battle, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)—working with partners at the local, state and national levels—great strides have been made in preserving trails, walking and bicycling ("active transportation") in the U.S. Congress.
When first passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in November 2011, the draft "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21) bill eliminated the dedicated set-aside for the three core federal active transportation programs. This travesty for the active transportation movement was met with fierce opposition and tremendous organizing across the country.
In the months following, two particular amendments were introduced and subsequently included in the final bill that passed a Senate floor vote by 74-22.
S. Amdt. 1549, originally introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ensures that local communities can better access TA and SRTS funds. And S. Amdt. 1661, originally introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), reinstates the Recreational Trails Program.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill that many deemed the worst transportation bill ever was embattled from the very beginning. H.R. 7 eliminated all dedicated funding for trails, walking, bicycling and transit, with the exception of keeping the RTP intact. Representatives Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) introduced a bipartisan amendment in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to reinstate TA and SRTS. On February 2, the amendment barely lost by a vote of 27 to 29. Read more and see how the Committee members voted now. Opposition against the bill arose from left, right and center, and the bill was never even brought to the House floor for a vote. With the current extension of the transportation bill SAFETEA-LU expiring at the end of March, 2012, all eyes remain on the House to see how it will act.
National organizational sign-on letters:
- Supporting the Petri/Johnson amendment in the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee that RTC organized and delivered to T&I representatives' offices on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Link to letter
- Supporting the Cardin/Cochran amendment on the floor of the Senate to improve local access to TA funds; delivered to Senate offices on February 14. Link to letter
- Supporting the Klobuchar/Burr/Shaheen/Risch amendment on the floor of the Senate to reinstate the RTP; delivered to Senate offices on March 1. Link to letter