What will the new administration mean for biking and walking?
Throughout his campaign and in his acceptance speech President Elect Trump promised to support a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure spending. What will that mean for biking and walking?
The PowerPoint slides found here are from the webinar on this same topic.
The biggest effect the Trump Administration will have on the future of biking and walking will be based on who he chooses to run the Department of Transportation.
The Secretary of Transportation not only oversees the daily work of the federal Highway, Transit, Aviation, Rail and Safety administrations, he or she is also responsible for the formation of transportation policy, and interprets the transportation laws passed by Congress.
Each Secretary has their own priorities and emphasis on the department and the policy they implement. Secretary Ray LaHood (2009–2013) highlighted the importance of bicycling and walking as equal modes of transportation and implemented that policy through the TIGER grant program. It was Secretary LaHood’s criteria and focus on livability that made the TIGER grant such a great funding source for multimodal projects.
Secretary Anthony Foxx (2013–present) has highlighted the role mayors play in transportation by focusing on safety, especially bicyclist and pedestrian safety and technology innovations at the city level. His biggest priority has been his “Ladders of Opportunity” work where he is focusing on ensuring transportation investments create opportunity for low income Americans to have better access to jobs, schools and health care.
Under the Secretary’s guidance, the US DOT both interprets the law Congress passes and sets criteria for numerous grant programs. For instance, it was the LaHood DOT that determined that bike share projects are eligible for funding (bike share is not defined in federal law) and that set the criteria for TIGER. Both of those rulings could be reversed under a new Secretary.
At this time we can only speculate on who President Elect Trump will choose for his Secretary of Transportation, and what priorities they will bring to the job.
The President-Elect has laid out his plan for infrastructure investment. What does that tell us?
- His plan focuses on major projects that can be built through public-private partnerships (P3s);
- The plan has not identified funding that would not make a project (transit, rural projects, local roads projects);
- The plan does not solve the long-standing problem of sustainable transportation funding.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.”
“We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
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—President Elect Trump in his acceptance speech
While President Elect Trump has talked about a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure, the actual plan for coming up with the funds is in offering tax incentives and bonds for the private sector to work on public-private partnerships. The plan argues that offering roughly $140 billion in tax breaks and credits to industry will result in a trillion dollar investment.
The plan has met some criticism from across the political spectrum. While P3s have worked on some big projects like airports and some toll roads in major urban areas- where investors have been able to show a profit, these projects will not work as well on local roads, in rural areas or on transit. Some bike share projects can be considered public-private partnerships, but like all transit projects, they have not shown to be profit making.
The Trump plan also calls for expediting projects and reducing costs by eliminating or streamlining labor and environmental regulations and giving states more flexibility in general. The flexibility to states is concerning for us, since states often focus on interstates and major roads, and in general have not prioritized biking and walking projects.
President Elect Trump himself has also included transit and high-speed rail as some of the investment he would like to see, although this conflicts with the Republican platform. His plan has not addressed biking and walking.
The Trump plan would be a one-time investment, and is not a solution to fixing the decade old problem of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The short-term fix in the FAST Act, which was supposed to fund transportation through 2020 is expected to go into deficit spending in 2017. Republican leaders in Congress have expressed interest in investing in transportation, only want to do it if it is paid for — and new funding has not been identified. The Trump plan does nothing to solve the long-standing issue of the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. More conservative and small government critics have been pushing to limit the federal government’s role in transportation and do not support this expansion.
In order to invest in Infrastructure, the President will need to work closely with Congress because only Congress can pass the budget.
Congress will need to pass any increase in transportation investment, whether that comes from tax incentives, tax increases or other revenue. Congress will also decide what types of projects should be eligible for that funding. In order to ensure any new infrastructure investment will include funds for bicycling and walking, and to ensure biking and walking stays eligible in the budget, we will need to work with Congress too.
To do that we will need to reach out to new and returning members of Congress to educate them on the benefits of bicycling and walking to their community and ask that they support multi-modal transportation options — including biking and walking — in any new transportation infrastructure investment.
This year, because of the emphasis on infrastructure by President Elect Trump, we want to reach out earlier than usual. We will carry this message to Capitol Hill during the National Bike Summit, but we need to start even earlier than that.
There will be 51 new members of the House of Representatives in January 2017. If you live in their districts we are hoping you will help us by doing district visits. All Congress members have offices in their home district, and take meetings with constituents there. Its often easier to get a meeting with the member or their staff in the district, and the meeting is often more relaxed. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about the role of biking and walking in your community — while you are in your community.
The League has created a District Meeting tool kit that will guide you through how to set up a meeting and what to ask when you get there. If you are interested in helping, please let us know by contacting Caron Whitaker at [email protected]. We will plan a webinar to walk you through the steps and answer any questions you may have.