Rails-to-Trails Conservancy fight funding cuts

US government considers cuts for, cycling, trail and walking programs

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is working closely with its partners at the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking to generate support for core trail, walking and bicycling programs across the US, which are in danger of losing funding.

Government monies for such programs are unstable and could be axed during the current Continuing Resolution (CR) debate that concludes on March 4. 

Programs that are under threat of being limited in government funding or cut all together include the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Community Transformation Grants (CTG). Other programs that could face funding cuts include Safe Routes to School (SRTS), Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and Transportation Enhancements (TE), the primary funding source of trails, walking and bicycling in the US.

“Transportation Enhancements has been frequently targeted over the years, both implicitly; claims by congressional members and others that TE is an example of waste, and explicitly; after a 2003 congressional bill that would have eliminated funding for TE was defeated 327-90,” said Kartik Sribarra, Manager of Policy Outreach at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines. “The irony is that TE is wildly popular on the local level [and has] a TE project in every congressional district in the country.”

Sribarra noted the importance of looked beyond the current CR debate to protect core trail, walking and bicycling programs because they will be under threat again at the upcoming Federal Transportation Reauthorization and President Barrack Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012.

“The current CR debate expires on March 4 and by that time, the Senate must pass its own version of the CR which is an opportunity for the Senate to affirm its support for trails, walking and bicycling,” Sribarra said. “The House and Senate must conference to come up with an agreed upon version, and that final CR must be approved by the President.”

“In the absence of such an outcome, we will see a government shut-down,” he added. “This, however, is not to imply that core programs for trails, walking and bicycling will be in the clear even if they survive the March 4 CR deadline, as both the FY12 budget and reauthorization are upcoming opportunities for either cuts or further investments in these critical programs.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) represents highway and transportation departments nation-wide and has an enormous influence on Congress’ transportation decisions. The non-profit organization has stepped in to support core trail, walking and bicycling programs by creating a Facebook page to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the transportation debate.

Looking to the future, Rail-to-Trail Conservancy is working to reestablish the current Active Community Transportation Act H.R. 4722, passed in the 111th Congress. According to Sribarra, the bill aimed to provide concentrated, competitive federal investments to communities around the country to strategically complete networks of walking and bicycling facilities, aiming to shift many short trips from driving to walking and bicycling.

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