Senate committee transportation bill is a win for bike funding

July 31, 2019

 

On July 30, senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee passed the bipartisan America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA, S. 2302) to reauthorize funding for all federal surface transportation policy. PeopleForBikes welcomes this legislation that, if approved by the House of Representatives and the president, would fund and modernize bike infrastructure, prioritize the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians and recognize the environmental benefits of biking.

Surface transportation legislation has been the number one source of U.S. bike infrastructure funding for the last 25 years. Nearly $15 billion has been invested by the federal government in bike lanes, paths, trails, underpasses and other projects that make bicycling easier and safer.

PeopleForBikes been closely working with partners and allies on Capitol Hill and stakeholder groups to advocate for a variety of issues important to bicycle infrastructure and are pleased that a number of provisions we have strongly supported have been included in this new bill. As the House begins to draft their version, we continue to beat the bike drum in Washington to ensure that all of our industry priorities are addressed when lawmakers reach their final bill.

Authorized at $287 billion over five years, the ATIA represents a 27 percent proposed increase in funding for the Federal Aid Highway program. The bill would up dollar amounts for existing bike infrastructure programs and kickstart pilots to address 21st century transportation needs, and how bikes will help the nation meet them. Policy highlights include:

 

Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)

The ATIA would increase funding from $850 million to $1.2 billion for TAP (a 40% increase in 2021) with additional increases each year thereafter. This is a significant win for bicycle infrastructure. TAP is the largest federal funding source to help communities build bike infrastructure, including on and off-road bicycle facilities. Additionally, the ATIA would provide for greater local control of TAP funding in close alignment with bipartisan legislation we have actively supported this Congress (Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act, S. 1098). This legislation (both the funding increases for TAP and the reforms to increase local control of the funds) was part of our main “ask” on Capitol Hill during our Women’s Fly-In this past June.

 

Recreation Trails Program (RTP)

The RTP provides funds to states to develop and maintain recreational trails, trailheads, and bike parks for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses. Funding for the RTP is generated from taxes on fuel purchased for non-highway recreational activities. The ATIA would authorize a non-highway recreational fuel study, which would analyze the taxes collected on fuel used in non-highway recreation activities. Such a study could justify significant funding increases for the RTP (potentially up to $200,000,000 annually), which would need to be authorized by Congress.

 

Carbon Reduction Incentives Programs

The ATIA includes the first climate title in any transportation reauthorization. This provision would invest $10 billion over five years in projects aimed at reducing emissions and enhancing resilience in the face of a changing climate. Facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists (including the conversion and use of rail corridors for pedestrian and bike trails) are eligible under this program.

 

Safety Incentive Programs

An additional $500 million would go to states and localities for the purpose of increasing safety for vulnerable users, including people on bikes. The ATIA would require areas with high rates of fatalities for non-motorized road users to focus investments on improvements to bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and would offer grants to those that can prove a decrease in safety risks for vulnerable users over a set amount of time.

 

Disaster Relief Mobilization Pilot Program

The ATIA would provide grants (of up to $125,000) to local communities in partnership with a nonprofit community organization and/or bicycle/pedestrian advocacy organization to develop or modify disaster preparedness and disaster response plans to include the use of bicycles by first responders, emergency workers, and community organization representatives. E-bikes are eligible under this program.

 

Center of Excellence on New Mobility and Automated Vehicles

The ATIA would establish a Center of Excellence to collect, conduct, and fund research on the impacts of new mobility and automated vehicles on land use, urban design, transportation, real estate, equity, and municipal budgets. The provision includes docked and dockless bicycles; docked and dockless electric scooters; and transportation network companies.

 

With current highway funding set to expire in September 2020, legislators in both chambers are working to put this bill to a vote this fall. As other committees in the Senate and the House begin to draft their versions of the reauthorization, PeopleForBikes remains committed to ensuring all industry priorities are included. Further policies include:

  • Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP): We support a five percent set-aside for active transportation within the FLTP. These funds would address the need for safe bicycling and walking on federal lands and would help to prioritize all modes of transportation, including those that are non-motorized.
  • Safety Data Collection and Analysis: Collecting better data on crash injuries reported by states is crucial to understanding where and why vulnerable road users, including people on bikes, get hurt. With this information, states and localities can more accurately fund and prioritize safety projects and maintenance work.
  • Connectivity: We are working with partner organizations to advocate for funding specifically for connectivity of transportation networks, including bicycle infrastructure.   

 

We’ll continue to share updates as other Senate committees (i.e. Finance, Banking, Commerce) draft their portions and seek financing options, and as lawmakers in the House begin to develop their own version of the reauthorization in the fall. PeopleForBikes looks forward to continuing our work with Congressional allies to ensure they pass meaningful, robust and modernized programs that support bicycling.

Have any questions? Wondering how you can get involved in advocating for bikes? Reach out to Noa B, Federal Affairs Manager, at noa@peopleforbikes.org.

 

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