There have been a lot of ups and downs in my 25 years of trails and transportation policy negotiations on The Hill. Although the rail-trail and active transportation movement has come a long way in that time, I must admit that these last few years have been particularly trying.
But then, there are moments.
Last week I was watching the Environment and Public Works hearing, where newly confirmed United States Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, was facing the committee for the first time. The questions were pretty routine, mostly focusing on the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), probably nothing that would make headlines the next day.
Then Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a well-known opponent of federal funding for biking and walking as well as recreational trails, posed the inevitable question... how did the Secretary, as Mayor of Charlotte, confront his city's transportation problems?
With a steady gaze and unflappable manner, Mr. Foxx responded:
"For us it was highways, it was transit, it was bike paths and sidewalks, it was bridges. And when those things all work together well, what happens is that people have choices. And when they have choices they feel empowered. And that is, ultimately, what transportation does for our country: it empowers people to have a good quality of life and have good jobs."
Tears sprang to my eyes. In one splendid moment, America's top transportation official had put voice to all the work over the years, to make biking and walking a genuine option for millions of Americans. The trails and active transportation movement was no longer just a tag line, but had been anointed as central to the creation of quality communities.
The Secretary was having a moment, and so was I.