Since publication of this blog, RTC has delivered copies of our organizational sign-on letter to members of Congress on key committees and leaders that are addressing transportation funding issues. Our letter was signed by more than 300 organizations, representing millions of Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, urging Congress to support federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian trails and other safe routes for active transportation. Signers include nearly every major health, environmental and recreational organization in the United States. A press release is also available.
At the end of May, the president signed an extension of MAP-21, the nation’s surface transportation law to fund roads, bridges, public transportation, and walking and biking projects, just as the current law was set to expire.
This is the latest in a long series of stopgap measures to keep funding coming for our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. With just a two-month extension in place, it is unlikely that a long-term bill will be ready by July 31, and the most likely outcome is that the current legislation will be extended again.
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With attention in Congress shifting to longer-term funding solutions, attacks on federal support for walking and biking are on the rise again. In fact, last week, Rep. Sam Johnson (Texas-03) introduced a bill (H.R. 2609) to eliminate the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)—the nation’s largest dedicated source of funding for trails, walking and biking.
Rep. Johnson suggests eliminating dedicated TAP funds and redirecting them toward road and bridge repair. Not only would his ill-advised plan eliminate the largest source of federal funds for trails, and walking and biking networks, but given what a small portion of the overall transportation funding TAP funds comprise, it would do very little to help address America’s other transportation needs.
While some in Congress like Rep. Johnson are still focused on an auto-centric model that is old-fashioned and outdated, many Americans want to see a new transportation system with options that include safe places for walking and biking.
RTC's recent national poll showed that American voters want a transportation system that allows them to choose whether to drive, take public transit, or walk or bike to their destinations. The public is prepared to invest in a multi-modal system. When asked to distribute $100 of hypothetical taxes on transportation, voters on average allocated $27 to walking and biking—a remarkable 18 times the current share.
In the United States, half of all car trips could be completed with a 20-minute bicycle ride, and a quarter could be completed with a 20-minute walk. In 2009, the most recent year for which national data is available, RTC estimates that walking and biking saved $4 billion in gasoline, prevented 14 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere and prevented 26,000 premature deaths due to the lack of physical activity. By building connected networks of trails, sidewalks and protected bike lanes, we can convert more car trips and save even more.
We would also provide mobility options for the growing number of Americans who cannot or choose not to drive—including millennials in the workforce, senior citizens, children and people with disabilities. It is time for today’s transportation options to include safe places for everyone, everywhere.
With Congress continuing to work on a long-term bill, RTC is fighting back against attacks on active transportation and continuing to advocate for more investment in trails, walking and biking as part of a modern transportation system. We encourage you to be a part of this movement by sending a message to your representative and senators today.