On January 23, 2013, PA Walks and Bikes met with Nathan Spade, the Executive Director of the PA Senate Transportation Committee. We met to discuss funding and policy issues affecting bicyclists and pedestrians statewide. The legislature is expected to pass a transportation funding bill in early 2013 and we want to be sure that our needs are addressed and met.
Items that were discussed included:
- providing dedicated funding for walking and biking projects statewide,
- staffing a full time Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at PennDOT,
- providing funding for municipal and county bike plans.
- Bicycle Occupancy Permit and its hindrance to installing bike lanes.
This meeting has been part of a larger advocacy effort that PA Walks and Bikes has been involved with. During the past year, board members have been attending meetings with legislators as part of the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition. The KTFC is a multi-organizational group of transportation professionals and trades advocating for comprehensive funding. PA Walks and Bikes has been asked to represent the bicycling and pedestrian community.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are just beginning to address transportation funding, and we urge you to contact your representatives to let them know that funding for bicycle and pedestrian issues must be included.
Funding for transportation projects continues to be a hot button issue at the state and federal level. In Washington D.C., legislators are considering a multi-year transportation spending bill that will set the priorities and dictate the spending abilities of the federal government. In Harrisburg, legislators are developing a comprehensive transportation funding package that will modernize PennDOT and increase the amount of state funds available for transportation infrastructure. PA Walks and Bikes is taking an active role in ensuring that our voice is heard.
We are disappointed with the Federal House Transportation Bill as it threatens to reverse decades of bicycle and pedestrian funding by eliminating two very important programs. The Transportation Enhancements program is a federal program that mandates states invest in bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Transportation Enhancements funds have been used to build bike trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, and walking paths. A large majority of the facilities we enjoy so much as pedestrians and bicyclists have been built using Transportation Enhancements funds and the current transportation bill, as it is proposed, would eliminate this dedicated source of funds; the result makes a bike trail project compete against a highway project for funding.
The other program at risk is the Safe Routes to School Program. Safe Routes to School is money dedicated by the federal government to make the journey to school safer for our children. The program funds construction projects such as sidewalks and crosswalks, but it also funds education programs to teach children safe bicycle and walking skills. This program is also proposed to be eliminated from the House Transportation Bill. Both programs have been included in the Senate Transportation Bill. We have contacted our representatives in congress to let them know that eliminating these programs is unacceptable to the bicycle and pedestrian community. The fight continues, and it is important that you let your representative know that you do not want to see this funding disappear.
Within our own state, transportation funding is being debated within the State House and State Senate. The bills are both very similar, and drafted from the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Report, which was completed and made public in August, 2011. This bills will modernize operations with PennDOT, increase revenue collected by PennDOT, and ultimately increase the amount of funding available for projects. As the bill advances in the legislature, PA Walks and Bikes will pay close attention to the progress to ensure equitable funding is directed to initiatives benefiting bicyclists and pedestrians.