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Activetrans and Big Bucks
From Chief Strategy Officer Randy Neufeld
Our new president and his congressional elves are going into the holiday season brimming with the spirit of giving. They are ready to grab the national credit card and spend their way to a stronger economy. In the last few days they have heralded a gargantuan recovery bill, scheduled for January, between $500 and $700 billion. We’re hearing $60 to $100 billion of that for transportation infrastructure. (Our contacts in Washington also say a smaller stimulus in December is likely that will do something for the auto industry plus around $10 billion for roads and bridges.)
That’s a lot of money. It’s equal to about two years of all federal transportation funding. For active transportation, the push to spend a lot of money quickly could be a tremendous opportunity or a disaster. The worst-case scenario would be a streamlined rush to build a bunch of highway capacity that would degrade bike and walk conditions and cut our programs and projects out of the running. The best scenario would be to use this as an opportunity to disrupt the road-gang hegemony and win funds to fix crumbling urban streets and transportation choices that save health and energy costs.
Certainly decades of sprawl development and the lack of alternatives to burning gasoline is a big part of the reason we have an economic crisis. Spending billions building more highways to cornfields isn’t going to help. We need to buy transportation choices where people live now.
This is where our new mission is so brilliant. We know that biking is part of the solution. But that’s a hard sell all by itself in the multi-billion congressional arena. Transit by itself isn’t a very persuasive alternative either. But when you put the whole Active Transportation Alliance package together, you’ve got something. We can see the value and scale in building places where destinations are closer, and where there is a mix of walk, bike and transit options. Plus the Activetrans package is the best way to win on the energy and health impacts. Together we can compete for the big bucks.
We are working with regional and national coalitions to get three things out of the recovery bill:
– Fix it First: The money should be used primarily to fix existing roads, bridges and transit in need of repair.
– Complete Streets: Every road project should be a complete street. That is all users especially bicyclists and pedestrians should be accommodated safely in every phase.
– Fund Transportation Choice: Ensure that biking, walking and transit get priority so that our transportation investments move us towards a healthier green economy.
What is your vision for a green recovery? Do you have ideas that could give us a new deal for transportation? What projects can be built quickly, provide new jobs, and create transportation choices in your community? These decisions are going to be made really fast. We’ll be talking with our congressional delegation in the next month. What should we be asking for?
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