Action Alert: U.S. Senators again try to eliminate main source of bike/ped funding in U.S.

Today the Alliance for Biking and Walking sent the Action Alert below.

Please take a moment to contact our Missouri Senators in support of Transportation Enhancements--currently the main source of funding for bicycling and walking infrastructure in the U.S.

We are in an unusual situation in Missouri, where Senator Roy Blunt has voiced support for continuing the Transportation Enhancements program and Senator Claire McCaskill has voiced strong opposition to it.

Missouri delegation at the U.S. Capitol for the National Bike Summit
Missouri delegation at the U.S. Capitol for the National Bike Summit

Both senators need to hear from you--Senator Blunt, to shore up his support, and Senator McCaskill so that she will change her mind.

It only takes a couple of minutes, and if our senators do not hear a tidal wave of citizen response whenever our key bicycle and pedestrian programs are attacked, those programs will be eliminated sooner or later.

From Jeff Miller of the Alliance for Biking and Walking:

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, but the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too. Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007. Since then, close to 20,000 pedestrians and 2,800 cyclists have died on our nation's highways, largely as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe non-motorized infrastructure - exactly what the enhancement program was created to fix.

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 that makes 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 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 taxpayers' 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 your Senators today to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements. 

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