Last week shutdowns of the FAA and parts of the Federal Department of Transportation were avoided with the passing of extensions of the bills that govern both agencies funding sources, including a six-month extension SAFETEA-LU which funds federal highway projects. A smaller chunk of SAFETEA-LU, about $800 million per year, goes toward Transportation Enhancements—”quality of life” improvements such as bike paths, bike lanes, and pedestrian safety enhancements.
Though thousands of people will be able to keep working next month because Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) stepped back from his filibuster stance, Politico is reporting that he did so only because Democrat leaders in the Senate made a deal that would allow him to insert language into a new bill, six months from now, that would allow all states to opt out of the Transportation Enhancements requirements. In essence, this would allow states to choose between spending money on highways, or spending it on bike paths, and in many states where bike advocacy does not have a powerful lobby we may see TE funding disappear as an option for building new bike and pedestrian facilities. TE is not the only source of federal funding for bike and ped paths, but it is a significant one that would be sorely missed.
Look for more coverage on the upcoming transportation bill here as things progress, and thank you for contacting your legislators!