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Will state DOTs target bicycle and pedestrian funds in rescissions?

In the latest budget deal between the Republicans and Democrats, the two parties agreed to rescind (read: take back) $2.5 billion in unspent federal transportation funds. Your state DOT has the power to decide which funds they send back.

We are sending out an alert to ask governors to work with their state DOTs to make sure bicycle and pedestrian funding programs are not disproportionately targeted, if at all.

Take Action now. (Go to this link and select your state from the drop down list.)

What are rescissions?

Periodically, Congress rescinds, or cancels, unspent transportation funds from State DOTs.  Rescissions are essentially a bookkeeping measure, which allows the USDOT to take long unspent funds off the books. However, some state DOTs have turned them into an opportunity to gut neglected bicycle and pedestrian funding sources in order to preserve favored programs.

The USDOT tells states how much money they have to give back – but state DOTs decide which unspent funds they will send back first. Historically, some of the strongest programs for bicycle and pedestrian projects – Transportation Enhancements (TE), Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) – suffer dramatically higher rescission rates than other programs.

For example, TE and CMAQ made up just 7.3 percent of state DOTs’ 2010 transportation apportionments, but they made up a much larger share of what a state sends back. In August 2010, out of the $2.2 billion rescinded, $968 million (44%) came from CMAQ and TE. Not all these funds would have gone to bicycling and walking, of course, but based on historic spending rates, some $330 million would have.

The best way to protect bicycling and walking programs from disproportionate rescissions in the long run is to ensure that state departments of transportation are making full use of programs that most often fund bicycle and pedestrian projects. As advocates, we can help programs compete for priority by finding political and agency champions who will make sure these programs are expertly administered.

See the Advocacy Advance document, Understanding Rescissions – a Call for Proportionality, and for suggestions and resources to increase spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects.

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