Since Congress passed a disappointing transportation bill in June, all eyes have been on the states, which were granted new leeway to forgo investments in safe walking and biking.
This week, sustainable transportation advocates have at least one encouraging sign. Almost every state has chosen to put its federal “recreational trails” funding to use. Sam Handler at Mobilizing the Region explains how the political decision-making has been playing out:
In a bit of good news for cycling and pedestrian safety advocates, 48 states have chosen to keep their recreational trails funding whole—including all three states in our region. News arose of a potential New York State opt-out in late August, but a successful advocacy push helped avert that outcome. Under the terms of MAP-21, America’s new national transportation bill, states have the option of leaving dedicated recreational trails funding intact or shuffling it into the general cyclist/pedestrian project pot called “Transportation Alternatives,” where 50 cents of every dollar could be transferred to non-cyclist/pedestrian projects (like road expansion).
Those states that have opted in will receive trails funding at 2009 levels—New York is set to receive over $2 million, New Jersey over $1 million, and Connecticut just under $1 million. In New York, this means that the state can pursue more projects like Highbridge Park, in New Jersey, The Circuit’s trails could continue to get a boost from these federal funds, and in Connecticut, good, well-maintained bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in places like Hartford’s Keney Park could become more common.
With overall cyclist and pedestrian funding down by about 1/3 in the new federal transportation bill, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut did well to seize these funds. Now, they must also commit to investing the full total of allocated Transportation Alternatives funding on cyclist and pedestrian projects.
Andy Besold at BikeWalkJersey credited advocacy work for this victory. But there are many more battles to be fought at the state level to ensure the small slice of transportation funding that improves walking and biking goes where it can make the biggest impact.
By the way, you can give a long, resounding “boo” to Kansas and Florida, the only states that have chosen to opt out. Especially Florida, the most dangerous state for pedestrians, which once again shows itself to be exceptionally backwards on transportation issues.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Grid Chicago reviews the city’s talked-about new pedestrian plan. Bike Friendly Oak Cliff says that the “cycling renaissance” detailed in a recent Economist article is mostly skipping over Dallas. And Portland Transport discusses what it would take to get state roads converted to local roads.