Bicycle trail funds could be hit hard by Federal budget rescissions

Posted by on March 27th, 2007 at 8:57 am

There’s a very important call for action coming out of America’s leading bicycle advocacy organizations.

The buzz of bad news began at the National Bike Summit where we learned that in 2006 states were required to return part of their transportation budgets to Congress. Many states chose to do this by drastically cutting cash from a key bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure funding program known as Transportation Enhancements (TE).

Then, just over a week ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order implementing Congress’ call for the return of an additional $3.47 billion in transportation money.

Oregon is one of five states that has been hit extremely hard by these rescissions.

Of $47 million dollars in transportation budget rescissions, we have sent back $32.6 million from TE funds. That amount equals over 68% of the total rescission and is equal to 3.6 years of our TE budget.

Within 30 days, Governor Kulongoski will decide how to apply this cut to our transportation budget. If not fairly allocated, this could be the end of programs that fund walking and biking trails in our state.

TE funds are responsible for countless bicycle facilities in Portland and Oregon (search full list here) including the Fanno Creek Trail in Tigard and the popular Eastbank Esplanade from the Steel Bridge to OMSI.

To take action and prevent this money from disappearing, visit the Rails-to-Trails website and send a message to the Governor’s office.

Please send this action alert to all your friends that care about walking and biking.

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UPDATE 1: ODOT’s TE program manager calls this a false alarm:

“This is an inflammatory and misleading alert.

The large rescission of TE funds in 2006 was essentially a matter of giving up any future claim to older funds from ISTEA and TEA-21 that were returned from canceled projects or never committed to projects for a variety of reasons involving both state and federal decisions.

There is no effect on existing or recently approved TE projects.

For FY 2008 and beyond, the OTC has restored our TE Program to full funding, which means we’ll have access to about 85 to 95% of our annual apportionment just like other core programs that ODOT administers (Bridge, Interstate, STP, etc.)”

UPDATE 2: I’ve received some interesting comments on all this via email from League of American Bicyclists Director Andy Clarke. He has some questions he would like ODOT to answer. I will put this together in a new post soon.

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Evan Manvel, BTAMatt P.Dave ThomsonBurkJessica Roberts Recent comment authors
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Jessica Roberts
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Jessica Roberts

TE funds have made some great projects possible, like the OMSI – Sellwood path and the new Portland bicycle network signs.

These are some of the only federal funds available for innovative bike / ped / trails projects. The pot is small but it buys a lot (compared to building freeway exchanges, for example).

Sending it back is throwing money away that could do a lot of good for bikes. I know this is a slightly nerdy issue, but it’s very important. Please write! The form makes it really easy.

Matt P.
Guest

Sent:

Dear Governor Kulongoski

Sir,

I understand that the US Transportation Department has required Oregon, among other state, to return a portion of the funds allocated to it. I further understand that you and your staff must cut our state’s transportation budget by mid-April in response to that Congressional order. My understanding is that it is likely that the TE funds will be seriously affected by this requirement.

Transportation Enhancements funds are critical to trails, walking and biking, which have previously been identified by your office and the previous administration as critical to the health and well-being of Oregon residents, the livability of the state, and as an attractive force for tourism. They provide crucial benefits to our transportation system at a very modest cost to society. In Portland alone, over 12,000 trips are made daily over the bridges, and PDOT studies indicate that the number of cyclists goes up in direct proportion to the number of bike lane and bike trail miles. A cut in funding to these programs would hamstring them for many years to come, allowing the current network to degrade and no new trails or lanes to be constructed.

Oregon has a fantastic system of trails, and an excellent cycling program. Groups like the Mazamas, PWTC, the Trails Club of Oregon, the BTA and countless others have labored tirelessly to assist the state in making these programs, facilities, and events some of the finest in the nation. Oregon is recognized worldwide as a premier outdoor destination and Portland in particular is continually rated as one of the best cycling cities in North America.

TE funds helped pay for the Steel Bridge improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. They also helped fund the Powell crossing on the I-205 trail, the Gresham-Fairview trail, bike lanes on SE 92nd Avenue, and the Fanno Creek trail. I’ve used all of these improvements as a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, and I believe that cycling in Portland has been greatly improved by them.

I strongly urge you to take the leadership and initiative to preserve Transportation Enhancements funds. Every dollar of TE spending that you preserve will directly impact the lives of every Oregonian, and continue making this state the finest in the union.

Thank you.

Matthew P. Picio

Jessica Roberts
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Jessica Roberts

Unlike Matt, I forgot to save my text, but I do suggest reminding the governor of 2 key points:

1. Bicycle tourism is a growing sector in Oregon’s economy with tremendous potential. Continued investments will be key in realizing that potential.

2. TE projects are an important component in reducing Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

I am sure there’s an argument to be made about equity as well (amt/percentage money spent on motorized vs. nonmotorized modes), but since I don’t have the numbers I’m not confident about making that argument.

Burk
Guest
Burk

Done and Done – So, I’m not sure I understand why this happened:

“Then, just over a week ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order implementing Congress’ call for the return of an additional $3.47 billion in transportation money.”

Is there some kind of reason they are asking for all this money back?

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

Very interesting. If you follow the link on the Rails-to-Trails page, just above the map, to the “TE cuts by state” page you will see that in 2006 Oregon took 68% of their total Federal funding cut out of TE funds. This was the HIGHEST percentage of ANY state. This appears bass-ackwards for a state that is supposed to be leading the green revolution.

Matt P.
Guest

Ok, so apparently ODOT is covered. What about PDOT? Metro? County? Milwaukie, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham?

Or does ODOT receive all of the TE funding and distribute from there?

Evan Manvel, BTA
Guest

The OTC (that governs ODOT) is in charge of deciding what programs will be cut. Unlike past recissions, this one gave ODOT and OTC too much flexibility and they cut past TE. The local governments tend to like TE money, and support it.

So, if you decide to do anything (again, this is mostly water under the bridge), the best thing is to write to the OTC in support of TE moneys and all programs sharing in the recission burden (or even other programs getting cut more, given past gutting of TE funds).