Posted by Ben McCoy on October 28, 2011 at 10:03 am
This just hit our inbox from Bike MN!
Dear Members and Friends of BikeMN,
We are sending this urgent message to you because you are a supporter of bicycling in Minnesota.
It’s happening again. Just one month ago, Sen. Coburn (R-OK) failed in his efforts to strip funding for Transportation Enhancements from the six-month transportation extension.
Now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is taking the lead in trying to destroy Transportation Enhancements. On November 1, the Senate will finalize the transportation appropriations bill, which sets funding levels for FY2012. Sen. Paul has offered an amendment to redirect all funding for Transportation Enhancements to bridge repair.
We agree on the need to keep our bridges safe, especially in Minnesota. But the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too. Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007. In 2009 alone, close to 42 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles on Minnesota roads, often as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe non-motorized infrastructure; exactly what the enhancement program was created to fix.
In fact, dozens of vital Minnesota bicycle and pedestrian projects from the Blazing Star Trail in Albert Lea to the Goodhue Pioneer Trail in Zumbrota have been funded out of Transportation Enhancements.
If Sen. Paul’s amendment is successful, it would eliminate approximately $700 million in federal funding for FY2012 that is used to construct sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, trails and other infrastructure making it safe for bicyclists and pedestrians to get around. Even if every penny of these funds is diverted to bridge repairs, Senator Paul’s plan will still take 80 years to fix the backlog of bridge repairs we have today by which time all those repaired bridges would be falling down again.
Remember that the TE program represents less than two percent of the federal transportation program and these projects help alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety, get people active, and create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects.
Remember also that last year, states sent back to Washington $530 million of unspent bridge funds in rescissions. The states are leaving bridge repair funds on the table, unspent, year after year. They should at least spend these funds first.
If the Paul amendment succeeds, it will make it much more challenging to sustain funding for Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails in the long-term transportation bill that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee starts debating on November 9.
We must turn back any amendment to strip Transportation Enhancements.
Last month, more than 75,000 messages were sent nationally to Senators to ask them to stand strong for Transportation Enhancements. Thank you, that was an amazing turnout, but we must do better this time. Every time someone in Congress attacks bicycling and walking, we must push back even stronger than we did the time before. And, we will keep doing it until bicycle and pedestrian funding is protected.
This is the third time in a month that a small group of Senators has targeted Transportation Enhancements, using a different angle each time. It is a waste of the Senate’s time and taxpayer dollars to focus on this small and valuable program when we are in dire need of real and viable solutions to fix our failing transportation system.
Please contact Senators Klobuchar and Frankin today to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements. And then please forward this message to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues with a link to the League of American Bicyclists Action Center. Below you’ll find a sample letter you can customize to send to your Senators, as well.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at dorian [at] bikemn.org or 651-387-2445.
Thank you for your help today, and for passing along the call to action.
Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
—–SAMPLE LETTER TO SENATORS—–
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has offered an amendment to the 2012 Transportation Appropriations bill that would eliminate all Transportation Enhancement (TE) program funds and re-direct them to pay for bridge repairs. I urge you to reject this proposal, to put an end to the repeated failed attacks on this popular and effective program, and to quit wasting time on a small and valuable program that won’t solve the bridge issue.
Senator Paul’s amendment will not make a difference for bridges. Even if every penny of the TE program is diverted to bridge repair, it would take 80 years of funding to fix today’s backlog of bridge repairs. Meanwhile, the death toll of pedestrians and bicyclists left to fend for themselves on roads and bridges that fail to accommodate them safely would likely continue at more than 50 lives a year.
I agree that bridges, like transit, bikeways and walkways, have been chronically underfunded for years because state Departments of Transportation are spending too many of our transportation dollars on ever-more expensive and ineffective highway expansion projects that we can’t afford to maintain. The choice is not between bridges, transit and bikeways, all of which are vital for the safety and health of our economy and our communities. The real choice is between fixing and improving what we already have versus continued unsustainable highway expansion projects.
Investing in better and safer conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in Minnesota is not the reason our nation’s bridges are in a poor state of repair. States returned more than $530 million of unspent bridge money in last year’s rescission of funds. The entire TE program is less than two-tenths of one percent of the Federal budget and is barely 1.5% of the entire Federal transportation budget. It would take more than 80 years of TE funding to fix the current backlog of repairs.
On November 9, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will begin discussion of the next transportation bill. THAT is the appropriate time to discuss changes to the overall transportation program, not during the appropriations process. Congress has repeatedly rejected this approach and I urge you to reject this latest attack on the TE program.