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AP: GOP Attacks on Transportation Enhancements Are “Tall Tales”

9:38 AM PDT on October 31, 2011

A handful of Republican Senators really have a knack for rooting out waste in our transportation system — but only the kind of “waste” that is imaginary.

Despite their claims to fiscal responsibility, Senators Jim CoburnJohn McCain and Rand Paul haven’t zeroed in on egregious transportation boondoggles like the $1.7 billion cloverleaf in Wisconsin or the $5.2 billion highway to nowhere outside Houston.

Nope. These “fiscal watchdogs” have taken aim at a $900 million program that provides the majority of the nation’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure. And they’ve used some wild and colorful examples to support their position. Senators Paul and McCain said the Transportation Enhancements program has been used to pay for — no kidding — a “turtle tunnel” and a giant roadside coffee pot.

But this weekend the Associated Press looked into these claims as part of their “Fact Check” feature and found the senators “exaggerated and misrepresented some projects” in their attack.

Brent Hugh at the Missouri Bike and Pedestrian Federation breaks down how the AP report should inject some common sense back into the discussion:

The fact check is unusual — every supposedly horrible example of Transportation Enhancements spending is completely debunked. Each example turns out to be either grossly exaggerated or completely misleading. That’s not surprising, because Transportation Enhancements is the single largest source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian funding in the U.S. today, and those projects are important, popular, and much needed.

There are more than enough very good, very needed, projects to crowd out bad projects — and it looks like that is exactly what happened to many of the examples opponents have cited. They were bad and so they were turned down for funding entirely. That’s a sign of a system that is working — but it hasn’t stopped opponents from clogging the media airwaves and the public discourse with these fabricated examples.

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