Nine Reasons For Bike/Ped Advocates to Take Heart: The Senate Edition
4:43 PM PST on November 10, 2011
Now that the dust has settled, we have a few more notes on the Senate transportation bill that passed the EPW committee yesterday. Bike and pedestrian advocates are understandably shaken at seeing some major changes to the primary programs that fund their work. But here are some reasons to take heart:
Getting Transportation Enhancements out of the Surface Transportation Program is not necessarily a bad thing. You know how Republicans love to say that Enhancements get an unfair “set-aside” of 10 percent of the surface transportation program? They just lost that talking point. Still, STP is now part of the new, broader Transportation Mobility Program, and bike/ped projects will still be eligible for funding under TMP, as well as under the dedicated TE pot.
- And remember, dedicated funding for TE wasn’t exactly eliminated. (Dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program was, however; though they can still get funded as eligible programs under CMAQ, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program.) TE still has a dedicated amount close to what it had before – although TE is now “under” CMAQ in the bill, the money isn’t commingled.
- And if it makes you feel any better, when the committee collapsed 90 programs down to 30, lots of pots of funding were eliminated. So, don’t feel singled out.
- In the end, getting a bill on its way to authorization is better than the alternatives. We’re now on the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU, and everyone agrees it needs to be the last one. Without finding some more money to maintain current funding levels, as the Senate Finance Committee is currently doing, current transportation spending will bankrupt the Highway Trust Fund and make the 30 percent cuts in the original House bill nearly unavoidable. Meanwhile, even the House Republicans who proposed the 30 percent cut have distanced themselves from that position – though their current proposal to fill the gap with oil drilling revenue won’t do much to bring Democrats to their side.
- It’s good the Senate is ahead of the House. For a while it seemed Boxer was waiting for the House to go first, and then it seemed she was waiting for the $12 billion to be resolved before coming forward with the bill – but the horse is out of the gate now and it’s good that the Senate bill will set the tone for the conversation from here on.
While the House works to get a bill out soon – Boehner promised one “in the coming weeks” about a week ago – Sen. Max Baucus and his Finance Committee will be working to find that elusive $12 billion. Politico is reporting that the Banking Committee could mark up the transit portion the week after Thanksgiving, and Commerce will move the rail section before year’s end.
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