On February 17, US President Barack Obama signed into law an economic recovery package that contains US$825 million in funding for Transportation Enhancements. Many in the bicycle community are eagerly anticipating an impact.
Transportation Enhancements (TE) is the nation's largest federal funding source for trails, walking and bicycling and a long-standing program that has historically enjoyed bi-partisan support. Its place within the stimulus package, however, heralds a transition in thinking among elected leaders who once viewed active transportation projects as niceties. Conventional wisdom in Washington, DC has changed, and policy makers now know transportation projects to be necessities for a balanced transportation system and a robust economy.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), a nonprofit organization with more than 100,000 members and supporters, applauds Congress for its foresight in recognizing the job creation benefits of building bicycling and walking infrastructure, including trails. While representing less than two percent of transportation funding in the bill, this investment could create tens of thousands of jobs and critical active transportation connections that communities need.
"We are very pleased with Congress for recognizing the wisdom of investing in active transportation," says Kevin Mills, RTC vice president of policy. "The immediate job creation will also deliver long-term benefits for communities by reducing traffic congestion, climate emissions, oil dependence and obesity rates."
RTC documented this strategy and its implications in its "Active Transportation for America" report, released last October. According to the report, moderate investments in active transportation can yield substantial economic benefits, making bicycling and walking a highly cost-effective choice for policy-makers.
"Americans are seeking opportunities to walk and bike more, and drive less, particularly for short trips," says Keith Laughlin, RTC president. "With this funding, more Americans will be able to make that choice."
RTC will track the progress communities make in implementing hundreds of ready-to-go projects that will be aided by this recovery funding.
Visit www.railstotrails.org/atfa to learn more about the immediate and long-term benefits of funding active transportation.