Congress on Trails: Next Steps for Transportation Legislation

Posted 09/17/15 by Leeann Sinpatanasakul in Taking Action, Policy

Photo courtesy Dianne Yee | CC by 2.0

Congress is back in session, having returned from a month-long August recess in which many representatives and senators spent time in their home districts and states, meeting with the people they represent.

Now that they are back in Washington, D.C., they have a short time to take up several pressing issues, including how to fund our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

As you may recall, the Senate passed a comprehensive transportation bill in July, known as the DRIVE (Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy) Act. The DRIVE Act, if it became law, would change to the way funding is allocated for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), the nation’s largest dedicated funding source for trails, walking and biking. Although the DRIVE Act is not perfect—it is still hundreds of millions of dollars short of the federal funding provided to trails and bicycle and pedestrian projects just a few years ago—it made some positive changes to the way TAP funds are allocated and gave more control and flexibility to local governments to complete the bicycle and pedestrian projects people want. In addition, the bill would accelerate completion of trail networks by making lower–cost financing more readily available to local governments and rural areas.

Now that Congress is back in session, the House of Representatives is negotiating its own transportation bill. With current transportation legislation set to expire by Oct. 29, the House has several hurdles to overcome. The first step will be to introduce a bill and send it to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for a vote. This will likely happen in the next few weeks.

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From there, the bill will go to the House floor for debate and a vote. If it passes, the Senate and House will have to work out their differences through a conference committee. At any point in this process, the bill could be vulnerable to efforts to defund TAP.

Both TAP and the Recreational Trails Program—which is housed under TAP—have been helping thousands of communities across America build trails and safe places for walking and biking since 1991. TAP is the central backbone of funding for these modes of “active transportation” that help people commute to work, go to school, complete daily errands, improve their health, connect to their communities, and simply get people where they need to go under their own power. The fact is that without TAP, many of the trails you know and love may not have been built.

RELATED: Senate Passes “So-So” Federal Transportation Bill. What’s Next for Trails?

Legislators continue to attack this vital program, but each time they do, supporters like you have rallied to defend TAP. It is because of your support that funding for TAP continues to help communities everywhere build safe places to walk and bike. With leaders in the House debating the future of this program right now, and attacks from other representatives likely imminent, we need you to send a strong message to Congress that walking and biking have a place in America’s transportation system and that funding for trails, walking and biking needs to continue.

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