If you spent the Fourth of July hovering around a barbeque or watching a fireworks display you may have missed the news that a rare bipartisan majority in Congress passed a 2 year transportation bill which President Obama signed into law. While most media sources lauded the bill for being an example of bipartisanship and compromise, it could lead to drastic cuts for bike and pedestrian projects in the State of Georgia.
The bill is called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP 21 and changes the way bike and pedestrian projects are funded. In previous transportation bills 3 distinct programs existed which were funded individually:
- Transportation Enhancements
- Safe Routes to Schools
- Recreational Trails
Under MAP 21 the previously separate programs have been lumped into one new category, along with other road uses, into a category called “Transportation Alternative.” The result is that now bike-ped projects will be in competition for funding. And according to americabikes.org, “the [overall] funding has been cut by 33%.”
The program also removed dedicated funding for the Safe Routes to School Program. Safe Routes to School is an international movement with the goal of making it safe, fun, and convenient for kids to walk and bike to school on a daily basis in order to improve community and personal health. Funds are still available for the Safe Routes to School program, but now SRTS must compete with other “Transportation Alternatives” for funding.
So what does all of this mean for you? On some level it means that the goal of building a healthier, more bike and pedestrian friendly community just got a little harder. But there is something you can do.
Advocates like you can reach out to GDOT to ask them to not “opt out” and use the 50 % share of statewide “Transportation Alternatives” money on other projects. Additionally you can ask GDOT to prioritize bike-ped projects through the TA program.
To get involved contact your State Transportation Board member. The representative for District 1 which includes most of Valdosta is Jay Shaw and you can find his contact info through the GDOT website. Here are some points to emphasize:
- Fully award and obligate remaining funds from the Transportation Enhancements Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails programs
- Fully fund, staff, and implement the new Transportation Alternatives program, which replaces the Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School programs.
- Retain and utilize all Recreational Trails and Transportation Alternatives allocated to the state-Do not opt out of and transfer these funds to other programs.
- In keeping with the spirit of Georgia’s newly adopted Complete Streets policy, fully maximize Georgia’s investments in safe, accessible streets by utilizing all MAP 21 funding programs-including the Highway Safety Improvement Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds, and the Surface Transportation Program-to include safe bicycling and walking facilities in all transportation projects.
Many thanks to Georgia Bikes for making us aware of this new legislation.