Are you a member of the American Automobile Association? It's OK. Lots of bicyclists, myself included, are members.
We own cars and like the security of the roadside assistance that the club offers, as well as the travel and insurance coverage services.
Now the Rails to Trails Conservancy is concerned about a position taken by the AAA's Mid-Atlantic Chapter to remove funding for trails, and other biking and walking projects, from the federal Highway Trust Fund. That segment of the transportation budget has been the source of funding for such balanced transportation projects since 1991.
Sign a petition
RTC is asking bicyclists and pedestrians to sign a petition to AAA seeking the auto club's support for federal programs that “fund all ways of getting around — including trails, bicycling and walking.”
The issue was raised in the July/August issue of the Mid-Atlantic chapter's AAA World magazine. Chapter CEO Don Gagnon wrote about how some Highway Trust Fund expenditures went to build “nonmotorized transportation — including sidewalks and hiking and biking trails — as well as for transit…” Those projects should be paid for out of general funds, not the Highway Trust Fund, he urged.
He also hit the panic alarm, saying that the annual highway funding shortfall is $89 billion.
RTC reacted, first pointing out that the Highway Trust Fund has been the source of trail funding since 1991, creating 19,000 miles of trails in the US in that time. The amount going to biking and walking, however, averages $1 billion a year, not nearly enough to make up the shortfall as Gagnon implies.
“It is not realistic to believe that these programs, which operate through well-established channels using agreed-upon formulas, will be resurrected through other funding channels. Removing flexibility to use the Highway Trust Fund to develop a healthy mix of transportation choices is tantamount to eliminating many federal programs that have been the lifeblood of the trails movement ….
“The fundamental question is whether we want our transportation dollars to fund a balanced transportation system or one that is solely reliant on automobiles. An admonishment to look elsewhere for support does not make up for the fact that AAA's position would effectively eliminate programs that build trails and other active transportation facilities.”
The Mid-Atlantic AAA chapter is the most outspoken on this issue of removing biking, walking and transit projects from highway funding, but RTC wants the national AAA headquarters to state that it will not advocate Congress to remove those programs from the highway budget. No pledge has been made, and RTC is hoping the petition will help convince AAA that its members support bicycling and walking projects.