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The possibility of a Senate bill in 2020

The law currently setting funding and policy over our nation’s transportation system expires at the end of September, and conventional wisdom suggests that Congress will need to temporarily extend that law and start over on passing a new transportation bill in January when the new Congress comes into session. However, there is still a possibility, ever so slight, that we’ll get a transportation bill this year. The question is whether the Senate will finish their bill. 

The traditional process for a transportation bill to become law has seen the House of Representatives and Senate each first write their own bill, and then work together to find a compromise between the two bills. The House has finished its bill, but the Senate has only completed the “roads” portion–but there are some whispers the Senate may make a last minute attempt to finish its transportation bill. That would be great for bicycling and walking.

The reason we know a bill would be good for bicycling and walking, is that both the Democratic-led House bill and the bipartisan Senate bill include the League’s two biggest priorities:

  • A 40 percent increase in funding for Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program: TA annual funding would go from $850 million in 2020 to $1.2 billion in 2021 and 96 percent of that funding goes to bicycling and walking.
  • Between $200-$250 million a year in safety dollars for bicycling and pedestrian safety infrastructure improvements: a marked improvement over the ~$20 million per year currently invested in safety

Both the House and Senate bills also include climate programs, and other provisions that, in the League’s analysis, would incentivize biking, walking and transit, and deemphasize building roads only for driving cars. We agree with our partners, though, that the House bill in general is more aggressive in promoting sustainability in our transportation system.

Transportation for America has come out strongly against the Senate bill, or a compromise between the current Senate and House bills. They prefer staying under the current law. The League disagrees. We believe that a two year bill that locks in higher funding and key policy changes that help bicycling and walking would be significantly better than our current bill. 

Whether Congress passes an extension, or a two year bill, the next Congress will still need to pass a new bill. If we can lock in those funding and policy wins for bicycling this year, we can spend the next two years educating lawmakers and pushing for an even better bill in the future. If we only get an extension, we’ll have to restart our campaign for Transportation Alternatives and safety. Either way, we’ll need your continued advocacy. Make sure you sign up for our action alerts and following us on social media: Twitter and Facebook.

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