Harvest Century September 22nd

Mica was for Safe Routes program before he was against it

Posted by on February 1st, 2012 at 10:28 am

Congressman John Mica (R-FL) at a Safe
Routes to School event in his district in
October 2010. A bill drafted by Mica would
end the program.
(Photo: Safe Routes Partnership)

The draft federal transportation bill that was unveiled yesterday by Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee John Mica (R-FL) would eliminate the national Safe Routes to School program.

Since it was enshrined in law by Congress in 2005, the Safe Routes program has funded hundreds of millions of dollars for crosswalk, bike parking, education, and much more to schools throughout the country.

Under the guise of “consolidation” and “streamlining,” Mica’s bill does away with the program entirely and strips mandates that require all state DOTs to have a dedicated staff person in charge of coordinating Safe Routes projects. It also, “Eliminates requirements for states to spend highway funding on non-highway activities.” Of course the bill also “permits states to fund those activities if they so choose,” however most national advocacy groups feel that, given the lack of a mandate, most states wouldn’t so choose.

Mica at the Safe Routes
event in Volusia County. The poster behind him reads,
“Making Safe Routes to School.”

I know it was covered over the summer when Mica threatened to introduce a bill like this, but now that the bill has arrived, it’s worth revisiting that he was publicly supportive of Safe Routes in his own district as recently as October 2010.

On October 22nd, 2010 Rep. Mica visited Westside Elementary in Daytona Beach, Florida for an event to “encourage more children to safely walk and bicycle to and from school.” The school had just been awarded a “Walking School Bus” grant through the Safe Routes to School program.

Now Rep. Mica has proposed a transportation bill that would do away with that program. It makes you wonder who Rep. Mica is answering to with his bill proposal. Stay tuned for more coverage of the transportation bill. See the latest action alert at BikeLeague.org.

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12 Comments
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    Chris I February 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

    You want to take all of the non-highway spending out of the highway bill? Fine. The democrats should pass an amendment that requires all funding for the highway trust fund come from gas tax revenue. No borrowing, no deficit spending. I’m okay with them spending their gas taxes on highways, as long as no other revenue is used. Then we can fund these programs and mass transportation using general tax funds.

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    Matt D February 1, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Well, I’ll play devil’s advocate here.

    The reason the federal government is responsible for highway funding is that the highway system is interstate in nature. There’s no corresponding justification for Safe Routes to School. You’re talking about bike parking and crosswalks – that’s local/state infrastructure. We may *like* them, and we may *prefer* bike/foot travel to vehicular travel, but that alone is not justification for federal involvement.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Matt D.,

      I hear you and I also have some mixed feelings about continuing to support set-aside pots of special money for bike stuff instead of just competing with the bigger freeway pots — However, in this case, Mica and the House Republicans should offer more assurance that states will continue to fund Safe Routes and TE and so on, instead of just eliminating them completely and then hoping/assuming states will continue to fund them.

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      Chris I February 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

      The states would be interconnected by roads without federal highway spending, it just might not be up to federal highway standards. Federal highway spending ensures that all states will have a basic level of highway quality to create a national network, just as SRtS and pedestrian bike requirements ensure that all states have a basic minimum infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. What this bill says is: highways need to be funded to a basic level, but pedestrian and bike facilities do not.

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      Shane February 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Yet, funding for our local roads often come from the federal pot of money. Why pay for strictly car-based local transportation with our federal tax dollars but not other modes of transportation?

      Sure, it would be great if the billions of dollars were available and used for ALL transportation modes but without the “set-aside” money focused on specific modes we may end up, yet again, with car-focused transportation systems, especially in states without a DOT that is interested in active transportation modes.
      We’ve been down that road of ‘freeway and bridges’ federal transportation dollars and we were just headed in the other direction of spending our money more wisely on multiple modes of transportation. Why turn the clock back?

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      Chris Rall February 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      2/3 of pedestrian deaths occur on federal-aid roads. If the federal government is spending money to build roads that kill thousands of people because of poor design, the federal government has an obligation to fix those roads and make them safe for everyone. That’s what TE and SRTS programs do.

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    Matt D February 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Chris – ‘national network’ is the key point there. The infrastructure for getting people from one side of town to another is in no way national.

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      Chris I February 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      You don’t need federal spending to build a national network, you just need federal standards. States could raise money and build to these standards. Just look at Europe. The EU does not collect taxes and dole out funding for highways or rail projects, yet Europe has the best infrastructure in the world. Trains from France can travel to Germany and Switzerland. Drivers can do the same.

      Until you can find a way to only collect gas taxes from interstate travelers, you can’t limit the spending to interstate travel.

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        Matt D February 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        It’s not a question of need, it’s a question of jurisdiction. Interstate highways are at least plausibly a federal issue. You just can’t say the same about crosswalks and bike parking.

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          Chris I February 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

          See Chris Rall’s response above. Creating a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists on Federal roads IS a Federal issue.

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      spare_wheel February 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Hundreds of millions travel enormous distances in trains and airplanes. Why are are there no government subsidies of similar magnitude for passenger rail networks and air transport?

      Moreover, surveys indicate that the average trip length in a motor vehicle is 6-12 miles. These distances can easily be managed on a bicycle.

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        Chris I February 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

        There are subsidies for air transportation as well. FAA funding, next generation air traffic control, and rural airport subsidies just to list a few.

        Rail travel has extremely small subsidies, primarily in the form of Amtrak funding and some government-funded rail capital improvement projects.

        Of course, these amounts pale in comparison to the road subsidies.

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