A couple of days ago, I received an urgent notice from the Rails to Trails Conservancy concerning two proposed amendments to the FY 10 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill (H. R. 3288) that would have severely cut funding for rail-trails, bicycling and walking. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for me to circulate the announcement via the blog. However, I did call and email both Michigan Senators. Here’s what happened:
Transportation Enhancements (TE), the nation’s largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling, have frequently come under attack, but Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and our supporters have consistently risen to the challenge of defending this popular and important program.
Such was the case this week when U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John McCain (Ariz.) submitted two amendments to the FY10 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. If these amendments had passed, they would have eliminated TE, which provides the majority of available federal funds for trails, walking and bicycling. In response to this attack, RTC issued an e-mail alert on Tuesday, September 15, asking supporters to call their U.S. Senators and ask them to vote against the two amendments. Given less than 24 hours’ notice before the vote on September 16, hundreds of you acted and helped sway this crucial vote.
Amendment 2370 would have prohibited the use of federal funds for pedestrian or bicycle facilities, efforts to reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, and other specified TE projects if the Highway Trust Fund cannot cover unfunded highway authorizations. Sensing minimal support, Senator Coburn withdrew Amendment 2370 on the floor of the Senate.
Amendment 2371 would have eliminated the current set-aside that ensures funding for TE in all states. Responding to your calls to their offices, the Senate defeated Amendment 2371 by a margin of 59-39.
This is an important victory. But the fact that 39 senators—including both Democrats and Republicans—voted in favor of the amendment indicates that many senators do not fully realize the value such assets provide our communities. Please communicate this value to them now.
I am very pleased to report that both Sen. Levin and Sen. Stabenow voted against the proposed amendments. Click here to see how your state’s senators voted. If either of yours among the 39 happy to cut funding to bicycling infrastructure (or, God forbid, they both are), please take a minute to register your discontent. Likewise, if you senators helped vote it down, be sure to say thanks.