States can opt out of bicycle-project spending in new federal Transportation funding bill

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The Supreme Court ruling on the health care law isn’t the only big news coming out of the nation’s capital this morning.

The long-awaited House-Senate conference report on Transportation funding also was expected on Thursday. In fact, here are all 600 pages of MAP-21.

Bicycle advocates have been making a full-court press on Congress to preserve funding for “Transportation enhancements” (such as funding for bicycle projects) in the bill.

Opt out

It appears they’ve only had partial success. The League of American Bicyclists calls it “a bad bill for bicycling.”

Specifically, they were interested in ensuring those funds headed to the city and county level where we’d have more of a say in how they are spent on local bicycle and pedestrian projects, and not the state level where expenditures would be at their discretion.

As the conference bill now stands, the states have the ability to opt out of spending federal money on bicycle and pedestrian projects.

According to Rep. Peter de Fazio, the state and local governments will split that money. Politco quotes him:

“50 percent is going to go to local share, and 50 percent is going to state. Unfortunately, the states will have the option to move the money of pedestrian cycling and safety issues; …some unenlightened states like Texas will do that,” DeFazio said. He added that funding was not cut at all for those uses, “but the programs were melded together in one pot.”

Last week, the governors of 13 states urged Congress to, among other things, retain funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Transportation reauthorization bill. Those governors were from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Giving states the flexibility to shift the transportation enhancement funds to other uses was one of the hallmarks of the House Republicans failed transportation legislation. Conference committee chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer allowed some concessions to Republicans to gain their support on other aspects of the bill.

I suppose there’s still time to change this “opt out” feature by amendment, but time is running out as Congress must vote on the 2-year, $8.4 billion Transportation reauthorization by Saturday.

See more at the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Bike ban

Also, a strange provision that bans bicycles from certain roads on federal land remained in the bill. It reads (under the questionable heading Bicycle Safety):

‘‘(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road unless the Secretary determines that the bicycle level of service on that roadway is rated B or higher.”

Level of Service B is generally defined as “Represents reasonably free-flow operation: The ability to maneuver within the traffic stream is slightly restricted.”

Not surprisingly, the League has been fighting this provision since the beginning.

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  1. […] congress was not thinking about Placemaking when they created the opportunity for states to opt out of spending federal money on bicycle and pedestrian projects. The most important thing that professionals in our field can do […]

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