Here at Bike Delaware we’ve been focusedon the Active Community Transportation Act (ACT), and federal funding for “active transportation” generally, for over a year. Why? Basically, three reasons.
First, while from the perspective of highway and road funding ACT is a trivial amount of money, for walking and biking it’s huge. Portland provides the context. About 20 years ago, Portland was no different from anyplace else in the U.S. Then they decided to start building infrastructure for non-motorized transportation. In the next 20 years, Portland spent about $50 million on such infrastructure. Not only has bike mode share climbed to 6% in Portland (in Delaware and the U.S. it’s 1/2 of 1%), but the investment has also paid enormous collateral dividends in terms of Portland’s livability and quality of life.
And here’s the thing about ACT. It does NOT spread the money around. It’s a competitive and targeted grant program. Only communities that present a compelling case to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation for how they will spend ACT money to increase walking and bicycling will get grants. And what will the average size of such grants be? $50 million, the same as what Portland spent over the last 20 years to get to where it is today.
The second reason is that northern Delaware is in a really strong position to win an ACT grant. Our regional transportation planning agency (WILMAPCO) has already put together a draft proposal for an ACT grant, even though the law has not even been passed yet.
Lastly, there’s Mike Castle, our congressional representative. ACT was introduced in the House in March by Rep. Blumenauer as H.R. 4722. As of June 8, 2010, it had 58 co-sponsors…all Democrats. Why aren’t there any Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 4722 yet? It’s hard to say. If your only focus is on moving cars and trucks around as efficiently as possible, then ACT will seem like a waste of money. But if your focus is on moving people around, then ACT is an unbelievable bargain which not only saves money on direct federal transportation expenditures, but also has a lot of other federal budget benefits as well. (For example, the health benefits of active transportation are well established. And a healthier population means decreased federal expenditures on Medicare and Medicaid.)
Bike Delaware contacted Rep. Castle’s office last December to become a co-sponsor of ACT (even before the bill had been formally introduced by Rep. Blumenauer). Our follow-up efforts have included visits to his Washington office in March and his Wilmington office in April, where we have been joined in our request by the Delaware Bicycle Council, Delaware Greenways, Newark Bicycle Committee, Delaware Trail Spinners and others. So far, however, Rep. Castle has not agreed to sign on. To be fair, in the current partisan climate in Washington, it’s a difficult thing to be the first member of your party to support legislation introduced by the other party. But, as difficult as it may be for him, we need his help because, as Keith Laughlin, President of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says, “The Active Community Transportation Act of 2010 is the single most important piece of legislation for walking and bicycling to emerge from Congress in the last 20 years.” We need the Active Community Transportation Act to be bi-partisan (or, even better, bikepartisan) and so we need Rep. Castle to co-sponsor H.R. 4722.
Have you contacted Rep. Castle’s office about H.R. 4722 yet?