Since he introduced his proposal for the next surface transportation re-authorization bill late last week, John Mica (R-FL) has become public enemy number one in the bicycle advocacy world as well as in many other interest groups that would suffer from this proposed drastic reduction in transportation funding. The new bill calls for a 33% budget reduction from the previous transportation bill.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, the proposal that was announced by Mica, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House, "eliminates dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourages states from choosing to spend dollars on these activities that are "˜not in the federal interest.'" The League has been on the offensive fighting this proposal, and League President Andy Clarke has not minced words when addressing the issue.
Whether the next transportation bill is $200 billion or $400 billion is frankly less important than what is done with that kind of investment. Mica's "˜New Direction' proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American's real choices. Even with a 'small' bill, returning to a 1950's highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can't even afford to maintain, let alone build.
The League calls on Chairman Mica to reinstate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking in his bill. We also ask that the Senate resist the efforts of Senator Inhofe eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. In addition to being healthy activities, bicycling and walking are valid transportation options, with more than four billion bike trips made annually for trips to work, school, and tourism. Furthermore bicycling and walking projects have the potential to create 46 percent more jobs per million dollars spent than auto-only projects; and bicycling and walking are critical generators of economic activity in communities across this country. Now is the time to be investing in these modes, not cutting them off just as 20 years of investment is starting to bear fruit.
Streetsblog Capitol Hill has also been providing continuous coverage as reactions to the bill continue to pour out of House Democrats, bike advocates and other people that can see and think past the next election cycle.
"From all that we can gather, and from the outlines we've seen thus far, it appears this bill can best be described as the Republican road to ruin, " said Ranking Member Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). "It would undermine our long-term economic competitiveness and jeopardize our economic recovery."
"This is a cruel imitation of a proposal," added Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). "This is not a serious proposal. No one would really propose that districts get a third of what they got last time."
Mica has been the target of a healthy amount of negative press, but the League, on behalf of all cyclists, is asking for help and support to ensure that Congress understands that this bill is bad for infrastructure and bad for the economy in the long run. There is a difference between desperate, shortsighted budget reductions for political gain and responsible spending to improve the lives of all Americans that benefit directly and indirectly from improvements in infrastructure.
A final word from Andy, distributed via email on July 12, 2011:
The League, with our partners in the America Bikes coalition, is working around the clock to ensure that the next transportation bill includes bicycling. We need your donation today to help us impress on Congress that cycling matters, and investments in cycling pay. Over the next few weeks, League staff and members like you will be on Capitol Hill to meet with our allies and our opponents; those meetings also need to be coordinated in the home districts of members of Congress. We need to monitor the progress of the bill, and issue further action alerts as needed to earn critical votes. We need your support to make this grassroots effort work.