3 days to save biking and walking

Ad in San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, June 24, 2012 (click to enlarge)

We’re currently hearing rumors that Senator Barbara Boxer is ready to cave in to the extremist House leadership and abandon an earlier commitment to protect “Safe Routes to School” and other bicycling and walking safety money in her zeal to get a transportation bill out of the Congressional conference committee.

At issue is the bipartisan Cardin-Cochran amendment to the Senate version of the bill. It requires that the small proportion of funding set aside for “additional activities,” including Safe Routes to School, be made available to local governments through a competitive grant process. Without this requirement, many state governments will use those funds for mowing highway medians and other highway uses.

The extremist House leadership wants a highways-only bill, but the full House would not support the leadership’s original proposal, HR 7. A majority of Representatives clearly wanted to preserve bicycling and walking safety money, aware, probably, that a strong majority of Americans of all parties agree. Formally, the House’s version of the transportation bill was an extension of current law, safety money intact. But in negotiations behind closed doors, the leadership negotiated from a position of “highways-only.” Boxer has caved in before, and we’re worried she’ll give in again.

Now is the only chance to save bicycling and walking in the federal bill. Once a Conference report has been filed there is no changing it. Members only have a yes or no vote. Because this bill has been marketed as a jobs bill, it will be very hard to get members to vote against it.

Here are more details from AmericaBikes:

Update on Transportation Negotiations

Mica and Boxer emerged from their negotiations stating that they had come to enough of an agreement that they believe they can get a full transportation bill by June 30th – the end of next week. They have worked out funding for the bill, so they’ve cleared their biggest hurdle

Conference negotiations are done in secret and we don’t know the specifics of the changes to the  Cardin-Cochran agreement, but the rumors are flying. None of them are good for biking and walking.

Status of Cardin-Cochran

We believe that the local control aspects of Cardin- Cochran may have been compromised with an “opt-out” clause for states.  A state opt-out provision would negate the Cardin-Cochran  agreement by cutting off local access to funds for local  transportation.

If Senate negotiators succumb to House leadership and opt-out of local  control for biking and walking, Congress will reverse 20 years of  progress in biking and walking policy.

Local governments will lose the opportunity to compete for transportation funds to make local  roads safer for biking and walking – despite the fact that many of our  nation’s most deadly roads have been widened and made more fatal  thanks to federal road investments.

The good news is that the agreement is not final. This weekend, staff will start interpreting those agreements into legislative language, and there is still time for Conferees to weigh in.

Once a conference bill is written and we actually see the language, it is impossible to change it. Congress can only vote yes or no on a conference report, and even those members of Congress who strongly support biking and walking will be hard-pressed to vote against the whole bill.

What We Can Do

We have from now until Monday  to continue to ask Congressional Conferees to save the Cardin-Cochran agreement.

We need to make sure conferees in both chambers here the message:  Maintain the Cardin-Cochran agreement and ensure that Transportation Alternatives not allow states to opt-out of local control over local transportation projects, including biking and walking improvements.

  If you live in one of the following states and districts, please  click here  to call your member of Congress, or use the number listed below along with the below sample calling script.
Alaska: Rep. Don Young:  (907) 271-5978
California state: Sen. Barbara Boxer:  (510) 286-8537
Florida 2: Rep. Steve Southerland:  (850) 785-0812
Illinois state: Sen. Dick Durbin:  (312) 353-4952
Indiana-8: Rep. Larry Bucshon:  (812) 465-6484
Montana state: Sen. Max Baucus:  (406) 657-6790
New Jersey state: Sen. Robert Menendez:  (973) 645-3030
New York-24: Rep. Richard Hanna:  (315) 724-9740
New York state: Sen. Charles Schumer:  (212) 486-4430
Ohio-12: Rep. Pat Tiberi:  (614) 523-2555
Oklahoma-5: Rep. James Lankford:  (405) 234-9900
Pennsylvania-9: Rep. Bill Shuster:  (814) 696-6318
Tennessee-2: Rep. John Duncan:  (865) 523-3772
Texas-4: Rep. Ralph Hall:  (972) 771-9118
Texas state: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:  (214) 361-3500
Washington-3: Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler:  (360) 695-6292
Washington state: Sen. Patty Murray:  (206) 553-5545
West Virginia-2: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito:  (304) 925-5964
Wisconsin-8: Rep. Reid Ribble:  (920) 380-0061

 

Sample Calling Script

If your local member of Congress is a transportation conferee, please call their district office and leave a message asking them to save the Cardin-Cochran agreement.

Hi, my name is [[your name]] and I live in [[city/town]].

  • I'm calling to ask that [[your senator or rep's name]] maintain the Cardin-Cochran agreement in the transportation bill. Please ensure that states not be permitted to opt-out of local control over biking and walking funds.
  • Over 50,000 pedestrians died preventable deaths on American streets between 2001 and 2010. Having saddled communities with unsafe streets, it would be the height of cruelty for Congress now to take away resources from local communities trying to improve those conditions and save lives.
  • The bipartisan Cardin-Cochran agreement in the Senate transportation bill would ensure that local governments can access 1 – 2% of federal transportation dollars for local projects.

Will  [[your senator or rep's name]]  ensure that local governments have control over funds for biking and walking improvements?