an FHWA program that
sent Americans overseas
to learn transportation
(Photo © J. Maus)
After ABC News questioned spending on a trip to Europe by American bureaucrats to study outdoor advertising practices, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has suspended all funding for the FHWA’s International Technology Scanning Program.
That program has funded many transportation policy-related trips over the years, including one that looked at European biking and walking safety and mobility practices in 2009.
In May 2009, 12 transportation experts visited five countries in Europe to glean lessons on how to improve biking and walking safety and mobility. Among the officials on the trip was Oregon’s former state traffic engineer Ed Fischer (now retired). We reported on that trip and linked to their final report, Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility in Europe back in September.
Other international scan trips have focused on everything from pavement technologies and bridge construction methods, to sustainable transportation practices and congestion pricing.
Rob Burchfield riding in
Copenhagen in 2008.
(Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen)
Exchanging knowledge of best practices is common in American bike planning and policy circles. National bike industry supported non-profit Bikes Belong has their own “Best Practices Program” which lists “study tours” to foreign countries as one of their key areas of focus.
Portland planners, experts, and elected officials have made several trips to Europe over the years to better understand bike policies. In just one example, Metro hosted a week-long trip to Amsterdam and Copenhagen for their Blue Ribbon Committee on Trails back in 2008.
Sec. LaHood’s office told us this morning they are simply acting on President Obama’s orders. Here’s their official statement:
“The President has been clear: we must get rid of stupid spending and pointless waste. Each taxpayer dollar is precious, and there is no excuse for wasting a single one. That’s why, as part of the President’s Campaign to Cut Waste, I have suspended this program. I have directed the Federal Highway Administration to shut down this program until further notice while I personally review the way taxpayer dollars have been spent. From the outset of this administration, I have urged agency personnel to be judicious and cost-conscious in the use of official travel and we will not tolerate any abuse of the public trust.”