B+ for Boxer Bill
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her leadership colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee published their eagerly anticipated proposal for the next transportation bill — and the proposal gets a solid B+ rating from the League.
The bill offers the certainty of long term-funding that transportation agencies need to make much-needed infrastructure investments. At the same time, there are some small but important changes to make the programs run more efficiently and with greater transparency.
We’re particularly excited with some specific changes proposed in the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that would ease project delivery and are very happy to see the continued emphasis on safety for all modes, and on the shift towards more local decision making.
Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a specific non-motorized safety performance measure — a key ask at the last two National Bike Summits and the subject of a concerted campaign over the past 18 months.
Additional details include:
- An overall increase in funding for highway programs (transit and other issues are the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce Committee), including TAP. Funding for TAP is not restored to SAFETEA-LU levels, but no further ground is lost.
- Several small but significant changes to TAP project delivery will make it easier for states and local agencies to use the funds and NGOs are made eligible to receive funds.
- More of the funds (66% instead of 50%) are distributed by population, which will mean funds get more quickly to local urbanized areas rather than being left in the hands of the State DOTs.
The bill certainly doesn’t do everything that we asked, but overall it’s very positive. We will be working with our partners to include complete streets language similar to the administration bill or the Safe Streets Act in either the EPW or Commerce bills; we’d like to see a stronger equity component in the TIFIA program; and the unnecessary mandatory sidepath law on federal lands still needs to go away.
Find out more by signing up for Caron Whitaker’s Federal Policy webinar today at 1 p.m. ET, hosted by APBP in conjunction with the League and Alliance for Biking & Walking.
The EPW Committee expects to mark up (approve) this bill on Thursday — at the moment no specific action is requested and no action alerts have been issued. We are very grateful to Senators Boxer and her Committee colleagues for drafting a bill that is straightforward, generally supportive of bicycling and walking programs, responsive to our safety issues, and most importantly is a long-term bill.
Stay tuned: Next up is the House bill.