Bicyclists and Pedestrians: Where's My Stimulus?
Will bicycling projects benefit from Pres. Obama's stimulus plan? Flickr photo by Vincent J. Brown.

Will bicycling projects benefit from Pres. Obama's stimulus plan? Flickr photo by Vincent J. Brown.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association released a statement yesterday calling on citizens to urge state governments to build more bicycling and pedestrian projects using the $26.6 billion in stimulus funds released for transport projects on Tuesday, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The group has provided a list, compiled by America Bikes, of more than $3.7 billion dollars of bicycling and walking infrastructure projects that are “ready to go” in 90 days, or within the time frame of the economic recovery bill.

The problem is, these projects might not get funded.

From WABA:

In the months leading up to passage of the economic stimulus bill, many state Departments of Transportation released their lists of proposed projects. WABA submitted a list of bike projects from DC, MD and VA for consideration, but unfortunately, bicycle and pedestrian projects were under-represented on many state lists.

WABA points to a recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group that found that just 0.3% of the state lists of projects were for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, even though bicyclists and pedestrians represent nearly 10% of all trips.

Indeed, the U.S. PIRG report, available for download here, argues that the majority of transport projects submitted to Congress “are badly out of touch with the current trends, public priorities and transportation system needs” by prioritizing new highways while paying little attention to repair and maintenance projects, and especially neglecting “forward-looking transportation options, such as public transit and intercity rail.” As a result, U.S. PIRG says, these projects “are contrary to President-elect Obama’s stated intention to use smart spending to reduce America’s dependence on oil and emissions of global warming pollution.”

Another study, the “2009 Growth and Transportation Survey” released in January, shows that an “overwhelming 80 percent [of Americans] believe it’s more important that a stimulus plan include efforts to repair existing highways and build public transit rather than build new highways.” Furthermore, “Forty-five percent of those polled said construction of new highways should “definitely” or “probably” not be included in the plan.” (Read the full press release about the poll here.)

It appears that Obama’s plan to “help states create a 21st century infrastructure” is at risk of falling into 20th century traps of prioritizing cars over people.

Here are some facts from the U.S. PIRG report, titled, “Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending? How Outdated Transportation Wish Lists Sent by States to Congress Ignore Current Trends and Neglect Urgent National Priorities”:

On average, the nineteen states [that submitted project lists to Congress] would spend more than 75 percent of funds on highways and only 17 percent on public transit or intercity rail. In fact, seven states would allocate 1 percent or less, including four that would allocate nothing at all. This would be a step backward from even the grossly inadequate 20 percent share received by transit in federal transportation laws since the 1970s. It runs counter to Americans’ stated preferences, declining automobile use, and rapidly increasing transit ridership.

According to the White House, the $26.6 billion in highway funds is aimed to generate 150,000 jobs through the end of 2010. But in the rush to create more jobs in a faltering economy, could the government be missing an opportunity to establish sustainable transport projects and reshape the growth of our cities?

WABA emphasizes that states have only 120 days to assign funds to specific projects, so time is tight to push for more sustainable transport. Learn how to act now to advocate for more bicycling and pedestrian projects in the D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

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