ADVOCACY ALERT: U.S. Senator asks for vote to eliminate Transportation Enhancements--biggest national source of bike/ped funding

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has introduced an amendment to eliminate Transportation Enhancements funding, which has been a part of federal transportation funding since 1991.

The vote on Senator Coburn's amendment will happen soon--Thursday or Friday--unless other senators convince Senator Coburn to withdraw the amendment.

Washington, DC
Washington, DC

Please take two minutes to send our Missouri Senators McCaskill and Blunt a message telling them you support Transportation Enhancements.

Transportation Enhancements is the biggest source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the U.S. and in Missouri.

Last time this issue came up, Missouri Senator Bond voted in support of bike/ped funding and Senator McCaskill voted against.

We'd like to encourage Senator Blunt to follow in Senator Bond's footsteps, and Senator McCaskill to switch her vote!

What Senator Coburn is asking for--the return to a bicycle/pedestrian unfriendly America
Senator Coburn's position sounds so reasonable--gosh, we just want to remove a mandate from the states, and give them the choice about whether or not to spend money on bicycling and walking.

But you know what--we tried that experiment already.  Prior to 1991, every state had the choice about whether to spend their federal transportation money on bicycle and  pedestrian projects.  None of them chose to do it, and the result was decades of disaster for bicycling and walking in the U.S.

Every one of the states decided that big highways and freeways were vitally important to the well being of its citizens, and built them in spades--to the exclusion of every other option.

But you know what?  Bicycle and pedestrian facilities are vitally important as well.

You could even make the case that bicycle and pedestrian facilities are even more vital to our health and wellbeing--because we've seen that lack of good places to bicycle and walk leads to poor health, lack of fitness, and a society that is becoming more obese each year.

Going back to the bad old days
Since 1991, when Transportation Enhancements was put into place, every state, every city, every metropolitan planning organization has started to plan and build more, better, safer bicycling and walking infrastructure more routinely.

It has taken two decades, but we are starting to turn around the situation that 75 years of neglect caused in the U.S.--a country that was sadly lacking in basic facilities for bicycling and walking.

Senator Coburn wants to turn back the clock and go back to the America where bicyclists and pedestrians weren't welcome.

I don't want to go back there--do you?

If you don't, let our Senators know what you think.

What is happening in Washington, DC, right now
Here is the League of American Bicyclists summary of the current situation in Washington:

The good news is that we understand leaders of the House and Senate have agreed on a six-month “clean” extension of the current transportation programs that would preserve the transportation enhancements and other key funding programs for bicycling and walking infrastructure. That will give them six months to continue their work on writing a new transportation program for the longer term. We do not have to take action on the House side as we expect the House to pass it out.

The bad news is that Senator Coburn (R-OK) is still planning on introducing an amendment to strip the enhancements program from the otherwise clean extension. This is no idle threat. Two years ago a similar effort by Coburn was defeated by 59-39 and it’s a very different Congress today than it was in 2009. The additional reality is that if Coburn decides to pick this one issue on which to filibuster – and there’s every reason to believe he will – we will need not just a majority but a super majority of 60 Senators to vote to end a filibuster. That’s a real challenge on almost any issue these days.

So we need to take this threat seriously and contact our Senators today. The ask is pretty simple – “please support a clean extension to current transportation funding and please support continued dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs in the next transportation authorization.”

An article in Politico sums up the situation and gives Senator Harry Reid's assessment of the situation:

“It’s a pretty good way to legislate around here, be a dictator and say, ‘Either take this or leave it.’ That isn’t how things work around here,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the floor. “We have to have votes on issues to find out how people feel. I’m convinced his issue would lose overwhelmingly, but he’s holding this legislation up. And we are in a position that … we cannot get to this bill prior to Friday when the FAA expires.”

Senator Coburn summed up his position:

“I will not give unanimous consent as my right as a senator of the United States,” he said. “For us to continue to spend billions of dollars on things that are not a priority when this country’s struggling to survive, it’s very survival depends on us changing the way we do business.

“And if that means that the highway transportation bill does not get approved, so be it.”

Contact your senators here--let them know that those of us who bicycle and walk deserve our fair share of the funding.

Previous articles on MoBikeFed.org: