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Transportation Bill Rolls Back Progress

06/28/2012

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hilary Reeves, Transit for Livable Communities, 651-789-1415, cell:  612-554-1795; hilaryr@tlcminnesota.org

Saint Paul, MN (June 28, 2012)-- In response to the announcement of a conference committee deal to authorize the federal transportation program through September, 2014, Transit for Livable Communities executive director Barb Thoman issued this statement:

“The proposed new law from the House and Senate conference committee is a return to a 1950s highway-heavy emphasis with greatly reduced accountability and transparency.Thankfully, funding for transit was preserved, but the conference committee stripped some very good policy from the Senate bill. If this becomes law, people will have less say over how their money is spent.

 

The proposed new law gives much greater power to state departments of transportation (DOT), leaving counties and cities with less authority over funding. Metropolitan areas, the engine of the economy, also will have less involvement in how transportation dollars are spent. The innovative and sought after TIGER funding (now under a new name), will be available only to state DOTs (not local or regional government) and then only for projects over $500 million. Two recent TIGER-funded projects—the Minneapolis Interchange multimodal hub and restoration of Saint Paul’s Union Depot—would not be eligible under the new law.

 

The bridge repair provisions championed by Senator Franken were stripped along with an emphasis on road repair, so we’ll see more potholes and failing bridges. The deal also eliminates a critical passenger rail program and eliminates the Senate’s efforts to establish new national freight policies.

 

The small share of federal funding for bicycling and walking was reduced and made optional and dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School was eliminated. Complete streets provisions, already on the books in Minnesota, were stripped. We have seen a surge in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Twin Cities, thanks to federal funding for nonmotorized transportation. But now, as rates of bicycling and walking rise dramatically, funding for these modes is going down not up.

 

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill (MAP-21) in March. The House wasn’t able to even pass a transportation bill in its own chamber due to the extreme provisions it included in its own five year bill (HR7). Several strong provisions in the Senate bill were lost in fighting off the House-proposed Canadian oil pipeline (Keystone XL) and a coal ash regulation provision. In the name of “streamlining,” the final deal greatly weakens environmental review.

 

We had a chance to enact the Senate bill, which recognized the challenges we face today as a nation and called for using all modes of transportation to serve economic growth and preserve our nation’s natural resources and health. If industry is hoping that Congress will return next year to raise the federal gasoline tax to shore up transportation funding, this conference report and the new transportation policy framework it lays out isn’t going to help make the case.

 

The good news is that it’s essentially a two-year bill and not the typical six year bill. And, we know that more people are voting with their wallets and feet for transit, bicycling, and walking and less driving. We will keep working with and for leaders with a vision not from the 1950s but for 21st century needs and realities. ”

 

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About Transit for Livable Communities

Transit for Livable Communities is a nonprofit organization working to transform Minnesota's transportation system to strengthen community, improve health and opportunity for all people, foster a sound economy, and protect our natural resources. Through advocacy, organizing, and research, we promote a transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development.

 

Is Safety for Bike/Ped a Bargaining Chip in Congress?

06/22/2012

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hilary Reeves, Transit for Livable Communities, 651-789-1415, cell:  612-554-1795
Bill Neuendorf, Transit for Livable Communities, 651-789-1406
Andrea Kiepe, Transportation for America 612-991-9497

Ped and Bicycle Deaths Far Outpace Slim Funding Levels House Leadership Wants to Cut

Saint Paul, MN (June 22, 2012)— This weekend, as House and Senate conferees are hammering out an agreement for a new federal transportation law, House leadership is pushing to cut the small amount of funding that goes to bike and pedestrian projects in order to get a deal done. The current transportation law expires June 30. The Senate passed a bill with bipartisan support in March but the House leadership will not bring that bill to the floor. The Senate bill includes funding for road and bridge repair and transit and preserves bicycle/pedestrian funding at 1-2% of the overall bill. Passage of a new law would remove uncertainty about transportation projects.

“It seems like the safety of bike/ped users of our transportation system is a bargaining chip for some in Congress,” said Bill Neuendorf, advocacy director for Transit for Livable Communities. “We cannot understand why progress on a new transportation law is being stalled by House demands. We need a new law to keep construction jobs going, make sure our infrastructure is maintained, and assure the safety of all users of the road.”  

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National transportation data indicates that 12% of all trips are made by bicycling and walking but that 14% of all fatalities involve bicyclists or pedestrians. Bicycle and pedestrian projects receive 1.6% of federal transportation dollars.

According to the 2011 Crash Report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, pedestrian crashes increased in the state by 6% over 2010 levels. While death results from 0.5% of all crashes, 5% of crashes involving motorists and pedestrians result in death. The issue was heightened in the Metro recently with the death of a 12-year-old girl when she tried to walk her bike across a road in Chanhassen. The nearest cross walk was more than one mile away.

Calls to cut bike/ped funding come as rates of bicycling and walking are increasing while rates of driving are flat or declining. In the Twin Cities, bicycling and walking are up 52% and 18% respectively from 2007-2011, according to Bike Walk Twin Cities. A recent Report to Congress on the efficacy of bike/ped funding found many benefits, including shifting trips from driving to bicycling and walking and, as a result, less gas use, less air pollution, and better health. In Minneapolis and surrounding communities more than 14 million miles shifted from driving to bicycling and walking between 2007 and 2010, according to the Report and the USDOT Volpe Center.

The League of American Bicyclists recently showed how much small declines in driving impact overall congestion. “In 2011, total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the United States declined 1.2%. That means, due to the economy and other factors, Americans drove s less in 2011 than they did in 2010. But what makes that remarkable is the striking result: Congestion decreased 30%,” the League’s blog said.

“Clearly, trends in Minnesota and across the country are toward a vision of transportation that includes roads, bridges, transit, bicycling, and walking,” said Neuendorf. “The Senate bill, which passed with bipartisan support, recognizes these trends. The House leadership seems to be in a different era.”

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Sources:

Graphic:   Alliance for Bicycling and Walking http://www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/site/index.php/site/memberservices/2012_benchmarking_report/

 

Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts, 2011, page 77. Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/educational-materials/Documents/CRASH-FACTS-2011.pdf

Bike Walk Twin Cities 2011 Count Report http://www.bikewalktwincities.org/news-events/bicycling-and-walking-count-results

Report to the U.S. Congress on the Outcomes of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program SAFETEA-LU Section 1807 http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/ntpp/2012_report/

Minneapolis specific data about vehicle miles averted, US Department of Transportation, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, via email

League of American Bicyclists
http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog/2012/06/small-decrease-in-driving-huge-decrease-in-congestion/

 

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