President Biden signs long-awaited Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, including multi-year federal transportation reauthorization - and it's good for people who walk and bicycle!

Monday President Biden signed the long-awaited Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, including the multi-year federal transportation re-authorization, into law. 

MoBikeFed supporters are the few who really make a difference
MoBikeFed supporters are the few who really make a difference in national bicycle, pedestrian, and trails policy and funding

Work on the transportation re-authorization portion of the bill has been going on for many years.  Every year for the past several years at the National Bike Summit, Missouri's delegation has spoken to every Missouri Congressional office about this bill and the various issues and proposals in play.  Many of those proposals - proposals that the national bicycle movement has been working towards for many years - have made it into the final, passed version.

The "Stimulus Infrastructure Bill" that was combined with transportation re-authorization has been under discussion for several years as well - during the four years of Trump's presidency and then with greater urgency when the covid pandemic struck.

Below:

  • Details about Missouri's role in the bill and in setting national transportation policy
     
  • What is in the overall bill - transportation and other infrastructure
     
  • Specifically what in the $1.4 trillion bill will affect people who walk, bicycle, and use trails

What role do MoBikeFed and other bicycle & pedestrian advocacy organizations play?

Working with and coordinating with national, state, and local groups on all of these issues has been a major part of MoBikeFed's work over the past several years. Of course we are FAR from going it alone on this - national organizations like the League of American Bicyclists, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Adventure Cycling Association, and and Safe Routes to School National Partnership lead the way at the national level, and a huge network of state and local organizations across the U.S. and across Missouri work the same issues at the local and statewide levels. 

Each year the Missouri delegation meets with each Missouri member of Congress at
Each year the Missouri delegation meets with each Missouri member of Congress at least once. Over the years, we are able to build productive relationships with both elected representatives and key staff.

It takes all those groups working together to make change happen - like the change we saw in the Bipartisan Transportation Bill this week.

Many of the issues we saw in the bill signed Monday have been on our agendas for out meetings with Missouri congressional offices for five or ten years - some of them dating even to the early and mid 2000s.

That is the kind of long-term commitment it takes to make real long-term change in this process.

Through those years, Missouri congressional representatives have played an essential role in federal transportation policy nearly every year. 

  • Senator Bond was one of a bipartisan group of "four horseman" who had final say on transportation policy during his final several years in the Senate. 
     
  • Senator Blunt is a high-ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee
     
  • For the past several years, Congressman Sam Graves of northern Missouri has held key leadership roles on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.  Graves has been a high-ranking member of the committee for years now, held the Chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, and is currently the Republican Ranking Member in the full commmittee.

Because of those leadership positions held by Missouri Congressmembers, the importance of advocacy for our issues by Missouri organizations has been very high over all those years. Helping develop support for our issues - or in some cases, softening opposition - among these congressional leaders has been absolutely key in allowing progress to be made in Congress.

What is in the bill? How important is it? 

The regular federal transportation re-authorization bill happens about every six years.  Previous titles were ISTEA (1991), TEA-21 (1998), SAFETEA-LU (2005), MAP-21(2012), and most recently the FAST Act (2015).  The re-authorization bill sets all federal transportation policy and funding parameters for a six-year period - meaning that many, many billions of dollars of spending is affected by this one bill. 

Building relationships with members of Congress over many years, and with member
Building relationships with members of Congress over many years, and with members of both parties, makes a difference in the end. When everyday members back home follow up our personal meetings with a message or phone call, it really multiplies the effect.

So the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill includes that transportation re-authorization, but also much more.

How much more?

The Fast Act authorized about $226 billion of spending over a period of five years, FYI 2016-2020. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill authorizes about $1.2 trillion dollars of funding. That includes a five year re-authorization of the federal transportation bill, plus some $110 billion in new funding for major transportation projects, safety, public transit, and projects like connecting communities.

But it goes far beyond transportation to include other infrastructure needs like clean water, internet connectivity, electric vehicle charging stations, environmental remediation, and improving the electrical grid and power generation capacity. 

So transportation is just one part of the total infrastructure bill.  

In addition - $1.2 trillion sounds like a lot of funding, but the amount is spread over the next 5-10 years, depending on program.  

What does the bill mean for people who walk, bicycle, and use public transportation?

Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists has given and excellent summary of what the bill means for people who walk and bicycle. Some excerpts from Caron's article:

Thanks to the strength of our numbers in membership and the voices of advocates like you, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is good for people who bike. From the hundreds of people who have taken part in Lobby Day at the National Bike Summit to promote improvements to Transportation Alternatives, safety, Complete Streets and accessibility, to the tens of thousands who have contacted Congress with the League, thank you for standing up for safer roads and better bicycling. . . .

The bill is a great step forward that will build safer, more accessible communities for people who bike, walk, or use a wheelchair to get from place to place. It includes billions of dollars of in new funding for bicycling and walking, as well as first ever requirements for states to address bicycling and walking safety and  to write complete streets policies and plans. The bill also includes funding for “Reconnecting Communities”,  a program which addresses historical inequities in transportation, as well as requires stronger public participation in grant applications, with a focus on social equity and environmental justice. . . .

Here are some of the League's priorities - shared by MoBikeFed and many other bicycle and pedestrian organizations across Missouri and the nation - that are in the bill that just passed, with explanation of why each is important:

TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES

  • More than 60% increase in Transportation Alternatives funding - this is the main source of funding for bicycling and walking projects and trails.  The funding has been somewhat reduced in recent years, and restoring/increasing it has been a top priority.
     
  • Limits on when and how much a state can transfer - many states transfer money out of Transportation Alternatives and use it for other priorities.  The new bill puts strict limits on this.
     
  • Metropolitan Planning Organizations get a larger share of funding and obligation authority, meaning they can sign checks and get projects moving (before they had to wait for the state) -  Putting more of the money, decision-making power, and authority to set transportation priorities and then spend federal dollars accordingly in the hands of more local decision-making rather than the state Department of Transportation has been one of our priorities for years.  State DOTs tend to think about motor vehicles and highways only.  At the local and metropolitan level, voices for better, safer bicycling, walking, trails, public transportation, and other transportation options are far, far stronger.
     
  • State flexibility on the local match so states can use safety funds as local match or meet 80/20 requirements through grouping projects - Because of federal match requirements - usually 20% of the cost of a project or more - many small local jurisdictions have trouble making use of available federal funds designed to help communities build better, safer places to walk and bicycle.  This gives states more flexibility in the ways they meet that 20% local match. That means that more communities will have access to this federal funding - including many underserved communities that have been essentially locked out of the system in previous years.
    Some Members of Congress are supporters and other are not. Over time as we build relationships, some Members are able to support specific programs that benefit their districts.
    Some Members of Congress are supporters and other are not. Over time as we build relationships, some Members are able to support specific programs that benefit their districts. Others move their position from "strongly oppose" to "moderately oppose" - and sometimes building that kind of relationship is just as important and finding a strong supporter.

SAFETY

  • Requires every state to do a Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessment looking at road classification, speed, demographics of surrounding area, etc.  - this is going to be a huge change for Missouri, which has been underplaying the issues of injuries and fatalities in vulnerable road users for many years. Something like 20% of Missouri roadway injuries and fatalities are people who bicycle and walk, but less than 1% of our federal safety funding goes to improving safety for people who walk and bicycle. The new requirements to specifically consider the needs of vulnerable roads users- like people who walk bicycle, use public transportation, have disabilities, and so on - is going to make a huge difference in changing priorities for Missouri highway safety spending.
     
  • Requires states where 15% or more of roadway fatalities are vulnerable road users to spend 15% or more of Highway Safety Improvement Plan funds on vulnerable road user safety - this program will not apply to Missouri for now, because pedestrian plus bicycle roadway injuries generally total 15% or higher, but fatalities have been lower. But for states that have higher levels of bicycling and walking - and thus higher fatality rates -  this is going to make a huge difference.  Even for the remaining states, like Missouri, it is going to set and expectation that spending on roadway safety for people who walk and bicycle is at least roughly proportional to the amount of injuries and fatalities that happen.
     
  • Requires FHWA to research best practices that both promote biking and walking and make biking and walking safer, including on arterial roads

COMPLETE STREETS

  • Sets aside State and MPO planning to create Complete Streets policy, standards, and plans:
    • Creating a statewide bicycle and pedestrian plan has been a long-term goal, of nearly 20 years standing, for MoBikeFed and our allies across the state.  This new funding should finally make this plan possible. Expect to see us prioritize calls for this statewide bike/ped plan in the very near future.
       
    • Most Missouri Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) now have Complete Streets plans.  MPOs cover most large and medium-sized cities and nearly half of Missouri's population (Kansas City, St Louis, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, St Joseph, Joplin, Kirksville, and Cape Girardeau).  This funding should allow creation of Complete Streets policies & plans in the few remaining MPOs and help strengthen implementation in all MPOs.
       
  • Funds can also be used for all kinds of Active Transportation plans and/or plans that reduce single occupancy vehicle travel

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Pilot project to get better accessibility data to states and MPOs with the goal of improving connectivity

FIRST EVER CLIMATE TITLE 

  • Two new programs focused on resiliency and promoting lower GHG emissions

VEHICLE SAFETY

  • The bill updates the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to include a rating on ability to avoid crashes with Vulnerable Roads Users

MORE

 

Read the BikeLeague's article for more details about the bill and programs affecting bicycling and walking.

Your voice made a HUGE difference in this bill

The voices of thousands of ordinary Missourians who have taken the time to contact their elected officials, participate in Capitol Day in Jefferson City or the National Bike Summit, attend a planning meeting, and support the work of MoBikeFed and the powerful local advocacy organizations that have grown up in Missouri over the past 30 years - all that has added up to make a huge positive difference in federal transportation policy and funding this year.

When it comes to national and Congressional issues, often the wait times are long - years and even decades. But when change finally happen, it is significant.

And it is thanks to YOU - because when ordinary people, Missouri voters, speak up to their elected representatives, they DO listen.

Thanks to every one who has taken the time to contact officials and support MoBikeFed and other bicycle, pedestrian, and trails organizations.

Your voice does make a real difference!

 

 

Work to build citizen support for statewide bicycle, pedestrian, and trail funding, planning, and policy at the national leve, and keeping people across Missouri informed about Congressional legislation, funding, and policy, and building support for bicycling, walking, and trails in Missouri's Congressional delegation help build a world-class bicycle and pedestrian network across Missouri, improve safety for all road users, encourage more people to walk and bicycle more often, and build a statewide movement in support of bicycling and walking in Missouri.

And those are exactly the four major goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.

The multi-year effort that led to the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill this year helped move forward several important goals in our Vision - particularly in creating more funding for better, safer places to bicycle and walk across Missouri and in creating policy and funding for more local and state bicycle and pedestrians plans. The bill includes major improvements to roadway safety funding - another area of focus in our Vision.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support helps turn our Vision into reality.  Thank you!