Oberstar Unveils Bike-Friendly $450 Billion Transportation Bill
June 22, 2009
Obama Administration and U.S. Sentate Propose 18-Month Delay
It was just the first stage of what could be a long race to finalize the next transportation bill, but the June 22 unveiling of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) was a promising start for the future of federal bike project funding.
Mr. Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a bill to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that proposes to spend $450 billion on transportation between October 2009 and September 2015. While Oberstar's dollar proposal is far from set in stone, it represents a more than 50 percent annual increase above overall current spending. While his bill includes almost no line-item financial details, it proposes a variety of elements that would benefit bicycling.
Mr. Oberstar and a bipartisan group of Congressional allies are pushing for full
Congressional ratification of this bill by Sept. 30, 2009 - the day the previous federal
transportation bill expires.
But, the Obama Administration and U.S. Senate have called for an 18-month extension of the
current law - a period of time that would allow the federal government to develop a new
transportation funding model to replace the current fuel excise tax that is not providing
enough revenue to pay for roads, transit, and bicycling and walking taxability and programs.
Nevertheless - whether it is considered in this session of Congress or later, Mr. Oberstar proposes:
- The creation of a new Office of Livability inside the Department of Transportation, which would likely have the staff, funding, and focus to make sure that bicycling and walking (and other travel options aside from motor vehicles) are better supported.
- More money to city- and metropolitan-area governments for transportation enhancement projects--many of them bike-related.
- Strong support for a renewal (and most likely an expansion) of the federal Safe Routes to School program that began in 2005;
- A three-year extension of support for the four non-motorized transportation pilot programs that began in '05, with the possibility of providing new funding to promote bicycling and walking in additional cities after that.
- More money to support the gathering of statistics and research that evaluate the effectiveness of federal transportation investments and specifically the benefits of bicycling and walking.
- Language that helps legitimize bicycling as a mode of transportation that should be supported and funded.
- Language that encourages states and cities to build Complete Streets that safely accommodate all types of users (including bicyclists).
In sum, and as a reflection of the larger overall size of this multi-year bill, the federal investment in bicycling and walking could increase to more than $1 billion annually--still a very small percentage of overall government transportation spending.
Nearly all of the elements described above are part of the America Bikes coalition platform that was developed and presented to Congress in March.
Mr. Oberstar's bill is co-sponsored by Republican leader John Mica of Florida, and two other U.S. Representatives.
Bikes Belong and� American Bikes, the coalition of national bike advocacy groups that is funded by Bikes Belong, will provide regular updates on the progress of this bill.