FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 9, 2023
Brian Housh, RTC, BrianH@railstotrails.org, 937.776.9566
Patricia Brooks, Patricia@matchmapmedia.com, 202.351.1757
Laura Mandella, Bike Fed, Laura@WisconsinBikeFed.org, 414.626.1540
Wisconsin Bike Fed, Trek and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Call for State Legislators to Access New Federal Investments for Safe Walking, Biking and Trail Infrastructure
More than 60 trail and active transportation advocates discuss with state legislators how connected walking, biking and trail paths benefit Wisconsin’s residents, businesses and visitors
MADISON, WIS.—Today, more than 60 trail and active transportation advocates representing business, public health, tourism and conservation led by Wisconsin Bike Fed, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and Trek are asking state legislators for a yearly $18.5 million federal investment in walking, biking and trail infrastructure to meet growing trail use, which in 2022 was 45% higher nationally than 2019.
The investment will come from new once-in-a-generation federal funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which offers 70% more money for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that states can access for trails and active transportation infrastructure. Wisconsin ranked 49th in 2022 among states in terms of the amount of money spent on biking and walking per capita—only 85 cents per capita.
“Governor Evers’ proposed budget addresses Wisconsin’s long neglected active transportation network,” said Wisconsin Bike Fed’s executive director Kirsten Finn. “Investing more of the available federal dollars meant for safe walking and biking infrastructure will allow the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to address many critical trail projects across the state.”
A recent RTC study found that the net economic impact of trails and active transportation annually in Wisconsin is as much as $1.5 billion, including direct trail user spending of $686 million and health costs avoided of $833 million—economic benefits that increase exponentially as the connectivity between trails, people and places improves. RTC’s Route of the Badger is a developing 700-mile trail network that will link residents to jobs, communities, schools, parks and local attractions across seven counties in Southeast Wisconsin.
“We’re grateful for the leadership of Gov. Evers and Wisconsin Trails Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) and Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) who are working to meet the increasing demand for trails across the state,” said Brian Housh, RTC’s Midwest policy manager. “This once-in-a-generation federal funding opportunity is being fully utilized in other states like Indiana and Ohio and will help Wisconsin maximize the economic, health, safety, recreational and quality-of-life benefits that trails have in our communities.”
“The bicycle is a sustainable transportation solution to many of the world’s most complex problems: urban congestion, climate change and public health,” said Trek’s president John Burke. “An investment in cycling infrastructure is a common-sense and low-cost solution.”
Wisconsin has allocated more than $7 million annually for TAP funding since 2014. Increased TAP funding in the Wisconsin state budget would support consistent trail development and maintenance. This specific federal funding stream supports active transportation in every state. The proposed investment will allow Wisconsin to access the increased federal funding, which supports Gov. Evers’ 2023-2025 budget recommendations and will help the Department of Transportation to address critical trail projects across the state, including the following that are waiting for funding:
- Flyway Trail (Buffalo County): Develop a trail segment from Buffalo to Marshland that, when complete, will connect trail users from Winona, Minn., and Reedsburg, Wis., and connect to the Great River Road State Trail, Elroy-Sparta State Trail and 400 State Trail.
- Mountain Bay Trail (Brown, Marathon and Shawano counties): Identify a safe route for the only portion of the 83-mile trail that is on-road and currently includes sharp and blind corners.
- Wisconsin River Recreational Bridge (Dane and Sauk counties): Build a pedestrian, cyclist and snowmobile bridge connecting trails over the Wisconsin River to replace the recently demolished Sauk City Rail Bridge.
The Joint Finance Committee is currently holding public listening sessions about the 2023-2025 budget across the state. Wisconsin Bike Fed, Trek and RTC are urging residents to send an email to their legislators supporting trails: rtc.li/WI_trail_funding.
The Route of the Badger is part of RTC’s TrailNation™ initiative, which is designed to establish model trail networks across the country to prove what is possible when you equitably connect people and places by trail. To learn more about the Route of the Badger trail network, visit railstotrails.org/badger.
Wisconsin Bike Fed is here to cultivate, motivate and unite a strong community of residents as well as business and political leaders to move bicycling forward in Wisconsin—through education, legislation and involvement. Learn more at wisconsinbikefed.org.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is the nation’s largest trails organization—with a grassroots community more than 1 million strong—dedicated to building a nation connected by trails, reimagining public spaces to create safe ways for everyone to walk, bike and be active outdoors. Connect with RTC at railstotrails.org and @railstotrails on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Trek Bicycle is a global leader in the design and manufacturing of bicycles and related products. Trek believes the bicycle can be a simple solution to many of the world’s most complex problems and is committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent people from using bicycles more often for transportation, recreation and inspiration.