The Federal Transportation Bill finally presented to Congress today takes a step back from key reforms of recent decades, says
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Vice President of Policy and Trail
Development Kevin Mills.
"It shrinks from the challenge of meeting America's need for
forward-looking 21st century policy that provides balanced transportation
choices and improves public health and safety, the quality of our environment
and the livability of our communities," Mills says.
"From a broad transportation reform perspective, there are
many reasons for concern, including misguided transportation priorities and
gutting of provisions that ensure public input and consideration of the
environment in transportation decisions."
"The core programs that support trails, bicycling and
walking are seriously compromised, but not undone," he says.
Much as in the Senate bill, the most significant changes
In addition, a new Complete Streets policy that was in the
Senate bill to require routine accommodation of all roadway users was not
included in the final bill.
"Some in Congress sought to undermine these vital trail and
active transportation programs in more fundamental ways than the bill we have
now," Mills says. "It is a credit to RTC's supporters and organizational allies
that these more reactionary views did not carry the day. There are scores of
people across the country working hard for a better transportation system for
America - as volunteers, as advocates, as planners - people who are passionate
about trails and know that active transportation is good for their communities.
Because trails, bicycling and walking are critical to communities of all sizes
and types, they will remain a vibrant part of America's transportation future."
Final passage of the bill is expected by Saturday.
Thank you for your hard work on this very vital program.
My issue with the rails-to-trails agenda is the fact that a very sane alternative to constant increases in support for roads would be support for a truly accessible rail system in this country. Although I LOVE the Minuteman Bike Trail and ride it multiple times each week, I am distressed by the dismantling of what could be a healthy alternative to cars.
We strongly Support the Rails to Trails position against this bill! We Support the Rails to Trails movement!
Thank you to Rails-to-Trails for their efforts to help provide alternative paths for non-vehicular transportation. I only wish the governments (national, state, and local) could fully see the benefits to non-vehicular transportation. Obviously, some areas are doing better than others.
Here is something for everyone to think about.
Our 12.14-mile trail was funded by TEA-21. We are starting our 8th year. I recently had someone comment to me, after using the Pat McGee Trail, "Have you ever heard of an unsuccessful multi-use trail?"
Build it and they will come!
I think everyone including bikers need to step up and help
reduce government spending when 60 cents of every dollar spent we do not have. We must all do our share and if bike trails are so much wanted by us we should fine our own way to pay for them. The day when we can have everything is gone.
I'm all for rails to trails, but I didn't realize they were being funded by tax payer dollars. I never realized how much they cost. Although I see them as great for recreation, I don't see them on equal footing with Highway dollars. I need roads and bridges to get to work. I love the trails on the weekend, but I don't see how spending highway dollars on trails works.
Not surprised, trail users don't drive or use much oil. The auto & oil lobby go hand in hand with their millions to congress
Wes and Stuart, so agree with you. The trails are wonderful and those that use them frequently or infrequently for that matter should generously donate to help them be maintained. Our country just can't afford these "luxuries" any longer.
Wes - Believe it or not, many of us bike to work, especially in urban areas. This reduces congestion and pollution, and in Boston, often gets us to work faster. We also pay taxes (and I do own a car and pay all of those taxes as well, I just don't use it to get to work). TE is a set-aside, usually ~1% of road improvement projects, that produces a lot of bang for the bucks.
What a great opportunity for the trail riders to help fund the trails they expect the highway driver to provide. Auto gas tax
not used on highways is not right. Trailriders should pay a fair share.
They aren't highway dollars...
..They are transportation dollars, it is not a highway bill that Congress authorizes, it is a transportation bill. The fact that many people mistakenly refer to it as highway bill shows how far ingrained the misguided thinking is in that highway funding is the only transporation mechanism that should be generously funded.
The elimination of a fraction of the waste in the highway infrastructure costs would pay for the small percentage of tax dollars used for trails many times over.
Since Wes and Stuart think we should step up and help, I suggest tea party republicans pass a law requiring everyone pay a toll on highway miles driven, based on GVW. This way,those who use the roads and trails will pay according to damage and wear they cause. Cars could pay a $0.50/mile toll and tractor trailers maybe $2.00/mile, while cyclists would be charged $0.0001/mile. Not only would this allow funding of the infrastructure by the ones using and damaging it, it would greatly encourage alternative vehicle useage, such as buses or bikes, while reducing vehicle pollution. Remember, most cyclists are car drivers too and would pay for both. How is that for a Republican/tea party idea? Would you both be willing to pay 6-8 thousand dollars more per year to fund roads, bridges and trails?
And Wes,some of us use a combination of trails and roads to cycle to work. I can attest the trail sections lower my blood pressure by several points and commuter cyclists use them if they have convenient access. Perhaps with the influx of cyclists like Wes on the roads after the new toll takes effect, the demand for trails will greatly increase!
Next time cyclists and pedestrians need to fight harder for our piece of the pie, and not settle for a few scraps. We need to identify and work to remove those politicians in the pocket of large highway contractors, who are most desperate to remove non-auto funding from the transportation bills.
I spent 50 weeks last year walking 50 miles, in all 50 states to promote a return to Natural Laws in order to bring Peace. Most of the trails I used are part of the Rails to Trails System. As one who can surely attest to the enhancement these trails has brought not only to providing safe pathways for health, transportation and recreation to every state but, it was very apparent that the trails, and those like it, are bringing our communities and country together in a way that surpasses the monetary value. Please, continue your hard work. We are behind you all the way!
Wow - two comments (from Wes and Stuart) relating to fiscal responsibility!! I never would have thought I'd see it on this website.
Yes, much of the Transportation bill's spending is for road improvements, but this is as it should be. The vast, vast majority of workers in this country commute by car, and for most this is the ONLY alternative. Please remember that people who commute DO pay for most (if not all, not sure of the exact figures) of these improvements through the federal gasoline tax. In fact, they also pay for many mass transit projects and operational budgets due to congress directing some of the federal gas tax towards mass transit. Walking/bike trails, however desirable, have no 'user fees' associated with them - there is no direct recurring revenue collected for maintenance and/or development of new trails. Of course there are some intangible benefits (which seem to be greatly exaggerated by proponents), but let's be realistic: even if we made every unused railroad ROWs a trail, as a whole the percentage of people commuting to work via bike would increase only slightly.
In this time of runaway deficits at all levels of government, can we really afford desirable yet ultimately luxury items?
Flame-retardant suit on...
I'm a Conservative, and I support the Rails to Trails movement.
Bike trails are great! But are not a necessity. Roads and bridges that I take to get to work and that carry products to and from markets are far more important. Roads in Michigan are in terrible shape, the bike trails can wait until we throw 0bama out of office and the economy turns around.
Michigan has the highest weight limits in the nation for Semi trucks, they're crushing bridges and overpasses. Lower the limits, reopen the abandoned weigh stations. You'll save money in repairs, worker fees and apply that to the trails.
We in Mammoth Lakes California have leveraged trails dollars for a great local bike trails system. It would not have been possible for this small community of 6000 to finance such improvements. We cater to as many as 45,000 guests on weekends. That is what the trails system serves. This hit on the Recreational Trails funds will slow things down. The completion of our trails system is a priority in the attraction of summer visitors. Mammoth is a good example of how these programs serve large sectors of the population. I am pleased we still have a semblance of the programs in place. We need to lobby the next renewal for large gains. The era of the automobile is past sustainability. Every dollar invested in bike and pedestrian trails is important to a future not exclusively about burning fossil fuel.
The problem with building more and bigger roads is, as has been shown over and over again, it just leads to increased traffic to fill those roads ,leading to more roads, leading to more cars, leading to more roads ad infinitum. More rail trails, I say. Or get serious about a national rail system that is NOT Amtrak, with it's horrible record.
Please don't confuse a cut in tax funding of trails with "going backward" in transportation funding. Many people walk or bike to work on trails, so for them, it's a convenience and maybe even a necessity...to a point. But roads, highways, and heavy infrastructure are far more critical to economic development. Shifting funding toward them will result in economic progress, which re-fills the public and private coffers, which re-opens the doors to trails funding. Simple market economics. If you want a healthy trails system, spend the money where your investment returns the greater dividends first, then you'll see trails funding return.
At least here in Seattle, there are a large number of people who use our regional tail system to commute. Nearly 4 percent of all commutes are by bicycle and the trails are an integral part of our bike commute infrastructure. You may think that 4 percent is not much, but increase the number of cars on the roads by 4 percent and enjoy the gridlock. Conversely, encourage bicycling and increase the percentage, and you may not have to add that extra multi-million dollar freeway lane. The trails pay off for everybody because they serve to reduce congestion and pollution, and improve public health. Furthermore, the cost of bicycle infrastructure is miniscule compared to the cost of more highways. We need balance, and we need to fund healthy alternatives to single occupancy vehicle commuting, which is just not sustainable.
step up and help? most rails to trails rely on multiple steams of private and public funding and a tremendous amount of volunteer sweat equity. if you are using them and not helping then thank you for your tax contribution. and btw not all bike routes are rails to trail or solely recreational. every bike commuter frees up infrastucture maintenance costs, reduces exposure to emissions/greenhouse gases, decreases fossil fuel use etc. you can keep what is "yours", i'll continue to invest in the future
If you don't use oil for transportation the republicans won't fund it.
I ditto all efforts to to restore the TE Enhancements. As to comments about Highway dollars taking priortity. We would not be in such trouble with our highway infrastructure if we put efforts into banning the use of winter-time salt on our roads! Use of salt is the cause of bridge and road errosion, and polution of streams and soils! Use highway dollars to develope and promote alternatives. Salt causes billions of dollars of damage every year! This is the reason why our bridge structures fail causing them to be replaced every 10 years, when they ought to last 50 years!
The folks that view this as the "highways bill" are so short sighted they believe every dollar should go into roads for cars and cars only. Nothing for airports, water transportation, passenger rail, mass transit or multi use trails. If they have their way we are doomed to ever longer commutes and urban areas in 24/7 gridlock with unbreathable air.
Well the clowns in congress need to help out all the people who need to drive their great big black gas guzzling S-U-PIGS down the roads of America... especially in all the states like Florida and California where 4 wheel drive is really a must have! If you ever seen the congressional parking lots in Washington... it looks like S-U-HOGS-R-US.
I agree with one of the people above in that I too love trails to walk and make available for others for bike, horseback riding etc, There are many abandoned railroad rights of ways that are growing into weeds that already could be put back into use for a more modern transportation system to serve our communities, while still having others for trails etc. Using highway dollars to maintain trails for walking is absurd and wasteful. Use it for upkeep and development of more advanced transportation systems. Walking and riding bikes to work for the majority of people in this country doesn't and would never work, We are not China!.What is needed is a better use of funding to develop these trails for all to use for recreational activities, public funding and private.
Republicans will not fund bike trails, parks nor for the most part, anything else they think will add a penny to taxes if some big business or interest group in their hand doesn't profit. Their voting record speaks for itself so forget about it passing both houses. No business specifically makes money on this thus it's not in their interest. In fact the better fit people are, the less medical they need thus that takes business away from doctors and hospitals. As far as the benefits of trails, they benefit society largely not for commuting to work but rather to gain better physical fitness and to help provide recreation activities for the family. America has become a nation of very obese people with major associated health problems.
And for the record, I pay over $1200/year in road tolls just to travel to and from work.
I don't drive a motor-vehicle. For the past five years I have chosen to cycle, walk, and ride the bus, where available. Without my local rail trail, and a few other non-motorized routes funded via safe routes to school; I would not be able to make it to work at all, let alone safely.
I cycle commute one hundred miles per week. Trails and sidewalks are not just for weekend recreation. You should thank people like me for easing congestion, minimizing wear and tear on roads and bridges, keeping gas prices lower, insurance premiums lower, and doing my part to greatly reduce the amount of toxic deadly pollution I create.
Those who think it is the job of government to turn a profit are basically idiots. That's Fox News logic, for ya. These types will attack anything that supports independence, equality, sustainability, and especially anything that fosters and nurtures a healthy society. Generally these types are narcissistic and\or sociopathic. The main common thread shared by these types is an inability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Funny that certain people think we are "broke", and can't afford "luxuries" like viable non-motorized transportation infrastructure, when the cold hard truth is over fifty cents of every tax dollar goes to the military.
If any one take the time and Google the Dutch model of a transportation system, you can see of forward thinking, there light years ahead of us. The thing to remember this generation of overweight persons in are society, if they keep on coarse with this will need to use electric scooters to get around, and is where trail and practical sidewalks come in to play. Not the one that seem to be more for decoration with tree, light polls, other thing blocking the way, but one to move people from point A to point B. In other words it encourage people to park there cars and walk to the different stories, rather that drive to each and every one. We also have to live with the fact that sooner or later, that Israel and Iran are going to lock horns, and then we will be living in a different world after that.
Our National Parks are a luxury and a treasured asset. It took vision to get there. Our Bike system will be the same! I'm a conservative and I support Rails to Trails!
I have been a rails to trails member for many years and have helped fight for many programs.Our bike trails and walking trails are treasures not to be taken lightly.I for one support rails to trails!
The amount of misinformation, even among people who seemingly support rail-trails and bicycling, is astounding.
Myth #1: "Gas taxes pay for highways". The implied corollary is that pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders are freeloaders. Where to start? Once upon a time, gas taxes were used for the Highway Trust Fund, which was the main source of money used to build the Interstate highway system beginning in the 1950s. And many states use gas tax money to pay for highway building and repair. Well, guess what, the gas tax hasn't been increased to account for inflation since 1993. Furthermore, gasoline use has declined in recent years because of more efficient vehicles and because people are driving less. Even in the last federal transportation bill that passed a few years ago, the gas tax fell far short of funding the outlay. They dipped into general revenue to make up the difference. The situation is worse now. So the current transportation bill includes a one-time gimmick to use pension-fund fees and taxes to the tune of something like $24 billion to make up the difference.
Myth #2. "Gas taxes should be used only for highways, not for mass transit or bike trails." Well, what other tax is dedicated to funding only a single type of outlay? Should all tax revenue derived from car sales be dedicated to pay for subsidizing new automobile factories? Why is the government picking winners in the transportation realm?
Myth #3. "It is right to put all the transportation money into building new highways because everyone needs/uses them." After doing just that for the last 60 years, most people don't have a choice in how they get around. It's the highway or the highway. Many more people would choose to walk, ride, or take mass transit if those options were available. My office is 11 miles from my home. If I drive, it's 12 miles, most of which is along an interstate. It takes about 20 minutes if traffic is moving, a rarity these days. Going by bus would require a 18 mile trip with three transfers, and trip time of well over one hour on a good day. Taking the commuter rail is a trip into town, then a subway ride, then another train that goes back out, total 22 miles, and over 2 hours. What sane person would take a bus or train?
Myth #4. "Highways pay for themselves. Every other form of transportation loses money". Oh yeah? See myth #1 above. Highways with tolls may pay for themselves, but every other road is a money pit. In addition to the initial cost of building the road, there are huge outlays for repairs, round-the-clock policing, accident cleanup, and snow removal that make up big chunks of state and local budgets. But somehow these get a free pass, whereas many regional mass transit systems around the country are pilloried for running a deficit.
Bottom line: For decades, federal and state governments have subsidized highways by hijacking a revenue stream (gas tax) that is insufficient to pay for the subsidy. A rational transportation bill would fund road, rail, air, water, sidewalk and bike modes of transportation, allotting to each a proportion of money so that all needs are accommodated fairly. The only other fair alternative is for government to get out of the transportation business entirely and privatize the highways. Then we will see how many highways turn a profit.
If the politicians would adhere to fiscal responsibility we would not even have this thread. I am a Wisconsinite and see paying for all this with the removal of excess benefits of health care and pensions of our "elected" officials. Put them down to the private sectors and quit peeing away taxes payer money. The whole thing makes me sick.
We all need to think out of the box. Yes we all need our cars at some point, work, food an getting to a trail. Not all trails are for bikes there are many who just walk. Most of use do it for our health. We all use the trails for one reason or other. But I will leave this though with you,if We ALL band together we can show all in Washington some grid lock. Every bike, every person that walks or runs or uses roller blades.
I live in a rural area that has recently see a number of new exurban developments with no thought to safe travel. So, we have winding narrow roads that are totally unsuited to anything but cars. Kids get killed trying to bike or walk to school. It is crazy to call trails a luxury! We need them for health and safety, and there is no reasonable way to get them done except as communities. It has nothing to do with political parties. It has to do with the common good.
If you are wondering how these trails help your local communities, you aren't looking at the big picture. As an example of how communities grow and prosper because of these trails I want to share with you my own persoanl experience: My husband & I had heard about a wonderful bike trail in MN, called the Root River trail. So, we packed up our 3 very young children at the time and traveled to one of the towns on our map. The only places to stay at that time, were a couple of B&Bs. While we were there and after a nice long bike ride everday we ate, played, & shopped. We met & talked to other biking enthusiasts. We loved the trail so much that we began making it a yearly trip. But the important part for you to understand is how much those tiny towns had changed over the 10 years we had be visiting: new motels( with pools!), new medical clinics(which we unfortunately had to use one year), new shops, restaurants, bike rental shops.....more people, more money coming into those towns!!! And, for our own experience, most towns welcome bikers with open arms because we enjoy good, clean fun in family atmospheres. I think states like MN have it figured out, and probably hope people (& states) like you don't ever "get it"....just more tourists and money for them! The beautiful bike trail saved these towns, in my opinion. Trail users don't just ride the trail and leave----they stop & spend $.
The money saved in health care if trails were constructed and people encouraged to use them would more than make up the cost in "highway money" taken. I wonder how many of MY tax dollars go to fund people who refuse to take care of their health. THANK YOU to John Dashe! PS: One of your precious drivers ran me over while I was out trying to cycle safely, but without anywhere but the highway, I was an easy target. I might mention that the driver was under insured and my medical costs alone would pay for trail maintenance for years! Think about what you are saying when you spout your narrow views!
I prefer packed limestone, packed dirt and mulch trails over black top and concrete multipurpose trails anyways. I don't see why it has become such a necessity to walk/run/bike on man made surfaces... Well bikers i do understand your argument a lot of your bikes are make for that.
Build the trail anyways but instead of doing the final stage of pouring asphalt or pavement. just stop when you have removed the hazards and leveled off the ground. That should be able to cut the amount of money spent on each trail a small amount.
We have the ability in our society to think outside of the box to get money to complete projects in new and original ways. Rail-to-trails ingrain yourself into the community earn the communities respect get companies to sponsor a mile or two or three of the trail. Hold a race to raise funds for the trail. I mean the options are literally only limited by your imagination.
"There are scores of people across the country working hard for a better transportation system for America"
Within these scores of people is there one person that can come up with the idea to make up for that 25-30% that the program competes for. how about 50 people of the scores that could come up with ideas on how to fund 90% of the projects privately. That should would take a strain off.
Begging for money will only get you so far. Going out and earning it will make sure the program succeeds much farther into the future.
although i am saddened by the lack of pedestrian transportation funding, i am also realistic in the need to drastically improve our roads and infrastructure ahead of bicycle paths and walkways. it ideal but not realistic to think that people would choose to walk or bicycle to work or school given this day and age where time is everything. unless we take a step back as a country, and we wont, pedestrian walkways will always be second funded.
no money for trails..it is sad but we need roads and bridges over a bicycle trail..sorry!
John Mica, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, is a local who is no fan of bikers and hikers here in Central FL. He just wants to reinforce the status quo with more roads for more cars, toll lanes on I-4, raised tolls to build Wekiva Parkway ( another boon-doggle). No wonder the latest bill is a step back, its hard to fight these guys on all fronts at all times.
I enjoy and support hike and bike trails but we also need to do a better job supporting freight and passenger rail transportation in this country. We depend too much on the highways.
My issue with the rails-to-trails agenda is the fact that a very sane alternative to constant increases in support for roads would be support for a truly accessible rail system in this country. rails to trails is consistantly destroying the most economical transportation system in the country for the sake of recreational use of corrdiors designed and enginnered for prosperity. the value of a trail as opposed to a railway corrdior is laughable. I am a progressive liberal Democrat but until the your organization stops its effrots to take railways, i am in full support of de-funding you.
Gday Anthony - just wanted to clear up a misuderstanding that is prevalent in your post. Funding for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was not at stake in this Transportation Bill. The federal govt. does not provide any funding for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. We are, and have always been, member supported.
Rails to Trails doesn't compete with viable railway corridors, they preserve the right-of-way that would otherwise be lost if not designated as a rail trail. If you research the last use of a rail ROW before it was designated as a rail trail you might find that it hadn't been used for more than 40 years.
Only by taking away the whopping 1% of transportation funds currrently going to trails and non-motorized transportation can save our highways and bridges for our tandem trucks and SUVs. Most of our urban areas are unfit for pedestrians and cyclists anyway, why try to make them livable now? Even if we keep our handful of trails many of our citizens who might want to use them are already too fat to walk or cycle. Why bother?
I'm sick of all this leftist whining about the quality of life when we should be most concerned about the quanity of asphalt - and our never ending committment to sprawl. Anything that doesn't emit CO2 has no business in the transportation mix.
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