Rep. Mike Castle, who is running for the Senate this year, has declared that his top legislative priorities include (1) energy independence, (2) fighting diabetes and (3) reducing congestion. Who would argue with these priorities? As Delaware voters, though, we need to ask Rep. Castle the following questions:
(1) Does building more and wider roads reduce our dependence on Middle East oil?
(2) Does building more and wider roads help to reduce the incidence of diseases like diabetes linked to obesity and sedentary lifestyles?
(3) Does building more and wider roads reduce road congestion in Delaware?
The answers to (1) and (2) are clearly “no” and “no”. What about (3)? Well, we’ve been building more and more roads for 50 years now. The result? Commute distances have skyrocketed; the percentages of kids who walk or bike to school has fallen below 10%; and everybody drives everywhere to do everything. And our roads are still congested.
In 2010, the federal government will pass a major transportation bill, something it does every 5 years or so. Although almost all of this money will end up being used to build more and more and wider and wider and faster and faster roads in Delaware, we also have an opportunity to do something a little bit different with this upcoming bill. Instead of spending all of these federal funds on roads, why not spend a small percentage of these dollars in Delaware on infrastructure for non-motorized transportation like biking that would increase the percentage of people who use a bike to get to work, school and shopping? Here are some reasons why this is a good idea:
(1) Biking to work doesn’t require any oil from the Middle East.
(2) Biking to school reduces obesity in kids.
(3) Biking to shopping reduces the number of cars on roads and frees up the roads for faster travel, increasing the productivity of Delaware’s economy.
Rep. Castle should be supporting the idea of spending a small percentage of federal surface transportation funds on non-motorized infrastructure. He has an opportunity to do so by being a lead co-sponsor of the Active Community Transportation Act (ACT), which does just that. ACT is the most cost-effective way to simultaneously address three of Rep. Castle’s own declared legislative priorities. How could he possibly pass up that chance? He can’t. We sent him to Congress to not just talk about energy independence, diabetes and road congestion, but also to ACT.
~ James Wilson