Bike transportation funding: Avoiding a scare?

Despite the recent buzz about Governor Rick Snyder’s new state budget, it probably won’t greatly affect bike projects in Michigan. In Michigan, bike infrastructure funding mostly comes through the state law (called Act 51) and the federal transportation bill. It is the latter that caused more concern this week.

On Sunday night, we received the following heads-up from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

Though we do not know details yet, we anticipate a congressional amendment that could do away with or hobble programs like Transportation Enhancements (the nation’s largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling), Recreational Trails Program and Safe Routes to School. Therefore, we are working with many other organizations to defeat such a damaging amendment.

Transportation Enhancements are perhaps the number one source of on-road and trail infrastructure funding. (The Recreation Trails Program funds trails, but in Michigan, it is focused nearly exclusively on DNR trails, including a mix of motorized and non-motorized.)

So it was welcoming news to read today that those cuts did not happen. Again, from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

This is a heartening development, as our programs have been fiercely targeted in the past and many worthy programs are on the chopping block. We believe these programs were spared because of the groundwork you helped to lay over the past years to foster appreciation of trail, walking and bicycling investments. Thank you so much for your strong trail and active transportation advocacy!

The TIGER, Community Development Block grant, and Americorp programs are still at risk in House. Those funds could also pay for trails and trail workers.

Meanwhile the Whitehouse has released their proposed budget with a fact sheet specific to transportation. Perhaps of most interest to cyclists is the discussion on livability and sustainability.

Helps Communities to Become More Livable and Sustainable. Fostering livable communities—places where coordinated transportation, housing, and commercial development gives people access to affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation—is a transformational policy shift.  The Administration’s reauthorization proposal adopts a multi-pronged approach to help communities achieve this goal.  For example, in the Federal Highway Administration, the Administration proposes a new livability grant program ($4.1 billion in 2012 and $28 billion over six years) for projects like multi-modal transportation hubs (where different forms of transportation converge) and streets that accommodate pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access.  The proposal also seeks to harmonize State and local planning requirements and facilitate more cooperation—and includes competitive grant funding ($200 million in 2012 and $1.2 billion over six years) to improve those entities’ ability to deliver sound, data-driven, and collaboratively-developed transportation plans.  The Budget also includes $119 billion for transit programs over six-years, more than doubling the commitment to transit in the prior reauthorization for both existing capacity and capacity expansion.  This unprecedented increase for buses, subways, and other systems of public transportation will help improve and expand travel options and help make our communities more livable.

If the Whitehouse could get this livability grant program through Congress, there is little doubt Detroit has a number of planning efforts that could take advantage of it.

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