In a big victory for the active transportation community, the U.S. House of Representative’s version of the federal transportation bill passed Thursday will keep current funding levels for critical biking and walking programs like the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The U.S. Senate already passed similar legislation earlier this year.
TAP is the largest dedicated source of federal funding for biking and walking infrastructure. In the Chicago region, recent projects that received TAP funding include the Cal-Sag Trail, the 43rd Street Bike-Ped Access Bridge to the Lakefront Trail, the Addison Underbridge Connector (construction begins in 2016) and many others.
Although TAP is less than 2 percent of the entire bill, the program came under attack by members of Congress who believe the transportation bill should only fund highway construction and maintenance.
After our national partners at the League of American Bicyclists and Alliance for Biking & Walking informed us of the threat this fall, we contacted our members of Congress in the Chicago region asking them to protect biking and walking funding.
And last month, we joined a group of constituents and bike/walk/transit supporters who met with U.S. Rep. Bob Dold’s office in Lincolnshire.
Thanks to our meeting, the Congressman learned more about all the current projects funded by TAP in his district and the need for more work to be done.
In response, Dold affirmed his support for biking and walking funding, and vowed to work to protect it in Congress.
But, of course, it wasn’t just supporters in the 10th district responsible for the this positive outcome.
More than 1,300 supporters signed letters to members of Congress throughout the Chicago region over the past several weeks. Thanks in part to their efforts, today we learned no amendments cutting bike and walking funding will make it to the House floor for a vote.
There’s also good news in the outcome for transit funding. Initial language in the bill increased the local funding required to access key grant programs like New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity, but U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski and others worked with leaders to maintain current requirements.
While we’d like to see funding increased for biking, walking and transit – and there are strong economic arguments to be made for doing so – in the current political climate this compromise bill will allow the progress to continue at the local level.
Stay tuned to the blog for updates and future opportunities to make your voice heard.
Photo: 43rd Street Pedestrian Bridge Rendering Credit: Cordogan, Clark & Associates