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Complete Streets, Amtrak Roll-On Passes Senate Committee

Just last night, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up their portion of the transportation bill – including safety provisions and railway and freight sections. While the bill passed out of Committee, the vote passed on a party line vote, with no Democrats voting for final passage. The final bill includes three wins for bicycling!

Complete Streets

First the Committee passed a bi-partisan Complete Street amendment, ensuring states accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers and transit riders in all stages of the design of streets. The amendment was sponsored by Senators Heller (R-NV), Schatz (D-HI), Markey (D-MA), and Udall (D-NM) and passed in a package of non-controversial amendments.

In 2012, a similar amendment passed the Commerce Committee, but was stripped out in negotiations with the House. We are working hard with allies in the House to make sure that doesn’t happen this time.

Amtrak Roll-on Access

The Committee also passed an amendment introduced by  Senator Manchin (D-WV) requiring Amtrak to report on how best to provide roll-on bike service. The amendment requires Amtrak to report on how roll-on service is and can be done either at their own stations or others, and produce a report on how to best provide and standardize roll-on service for bicycles, wheelchairs and other mobility devices for people with disabilities.   

This amendment mirrors one Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) successfully included in the House Amtrak bill. Getting it into one chamber’s bill is good, but getting this into both should assure success in a final Amtrak bill.

Active Safety Technology

Finally, Senators Heller and Markey also championed a provision directing NHTSA to include active safety technologies in their safety rating of new cars. This provision was incorporated into the first draft of the commerce bill. 

These technologies including forward collision warning, automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and pedestrian detection, will raise visibility of bicyclists and help to maintain peak driver vigilance. Recent analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that active safety technologies addressing the five most common motorist-bicyclists crash types could mitigate or prevent 47% of all crashes and 38% of fatal crashes. In combination with improved infrastructure, education and enforcement, active safety technologies will make roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

What happens next 

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is working hard to get a multi-year transportation bill to the floor of the Senate next week! 

On Thursday Senators are caucusing to debate on how to pay for the bill – and there seems to be some basic agreement on 2-3 years of funding. However given that the commerce bill is not bipartisan, and it’s likely that the transit title will also not be bi-partisan and the bill may face opposition on the floor. With McConnell pushing the bill though we should expect to hear a serious transportation debate next week from the Senate. 

The House is not ready to do their own long term bill and instead have passed a five-and-a-half month extension with enough funding to get us to December 18.

Should the Senate fail to pass a long term bill, or should the House reject their bill, we will see the five and a half month extension pass the Senate before they leave for August recess. 

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