Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bike Lanes and Sidewalks Caught in Pork Battle

The reauthorization of the next surface transportation bill is starting to heat up as the new congress gets back to business. The Senate recently held a hearing to discuss the bill, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has committed to getting it passed.

The legislation has the long, winding name "The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users." That's SAFETEA-LU for short. It's a funding and authorization bill that governs U.S. federal surface transportation spending. President Bush signed it into law in August 2005. It expired in September 2009. Congress approved  several extensions, but has not been able to tackle the replacement bill during the past two years.

The $286.4 billion measure contains a host of provisions intended to improve and maintain the surface transportation infrastructure in the U.S., including the interstate highway system, transit systems around the country, bicycling and pedestrian facilities, and freight rail operations.

Most problematics is that some in Congress still see enhancement programs, which provide funding for bicycle lanes and sidewalks, as pork. They are not. These programs are essential to cutting transportation costs and building a comprehensive transportation system. And they create jobs.

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