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.
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.