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Coburn puts hold on Transportation Bill; bike-unfriendly amendment expected soon

Late yesterday afternoon Senator Coburn spoke on the Senate floor demanding that Transportation Enhancements be stripped from the Extension of the Surface Transportation bill, and that he is willing to shut down transportation in order to do it.   (See our previous post on this subject for background.)

Sadly, Mr. Coburn’s demands are based on a misrepresentation of the facts about the Transportation Enhancement program, and a serious misunderstanding of the role bicycling and walking play in our nation’s transportation system. Mr. Coburn described transportation enhancements as not having anything to do with safety, or true transportation.

First of all The Transportation Enhancements program is 1.5% percent of the overall transportation program, not 10% as Mr. Coburn would have us believe.

Secondly – Mr. Coburn consistently highlights museums as primary examples of the projects that are funded by TE to try and make his case that TE has nothing to do with Transportation. The reality is that roughly one half (55%) of the 1.5% is usually spent on bicycling and walking infrastructure-such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes.  Bicycling and walking trips make up 12% of all trips in the United States; bicyclists and pedestrians comprise 14% of all fatal crash victims on our nation’s roads – and yet these two modes of transportation receive barely more than 1% of Federal transportation investment. Active transportation is growing in popularity and significance in communities throughout the nation-and this welcome trend is due in part to the investment of Federal transportation funds in bicycling and walking infrastructure.

Thirdly – TE program has very much to do with safety.  As mentioned previously, fourteen percent of roadway fatalities are bike riders and pedestrians- two-thirds of which occur on Federal aid Highways.  While roadway fatalities have been decreasing- the percentage of fatalities that are bicyclists and pedestrians has increased.  Building biking and walking infrastructure saves lives.

The real shame is that by holding up passage of a clean extension of the transportation bill, which Congress had already agreed to pass, Senator Coburn will keep 1.8 million people from working on highway construction projects for another six months.

We understand the Senate leadership has offered Mr. Coburn a chance to offer his amendment for a vote on the floor and although Mr. Coburn has not done so yet, we expect that that will be the case.

We can only hope the Mr. Coburn either withdraws his hold on the extension or allows the Senate to vote on his amendment.  The bill extending transportation funding for the next six months is not the legislative vehicle to pass long term national transportation policy. That responsibility lies with the committees of jurisdiction and they should be afforded the opportunity to work out the details on what our nation’s transportation policy will be.

The League urges Congress to pass a clean extension to the transportation bill, and support continued dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs.   If you have not had an opportunity to contact your Senator yet please visit the League’s advocacy center today to do so.  This maybe our last chance to make sure we have sufficient votes to beat back the Coburn amendment.

The League is also sending this message to the press:  Investing in Transportation Infrastructure for All – A Statement from the America Bikes Coalition

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