More than 12,000 e-mails went from the League’s on-line advocacy center to States Senators as a result of last month’s action alerts to “save” the transportation enhancements program – a huge thank you to everyone that responded. Along with tens of thousands of additional e-mails generated by numerous other groups, our voice was heard — at least, temporarily. Senator Coburn chose not to either filibuster or force a vote on abolishing the enhancements program – which provides half of all the Federal funding that goes to bike projects and programs. Therefore a “clean” extension to the existing transportation programs was passed.
The extension is for six months. So, we will likely face the same fight again towards the end of March – conveniently the very time we’ll have 800+ people in D.C. for the National Bike Summit – either to pass another extension or to pass a new transportation bill (although we’re not holding our breath on that happening). In the meantime, another potential threat has emerged. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) are preparing to introduce a bill that would take the enhancements funds and reallocate them to bridge projects – under the guise of preventing bridge collapses like the I-35 Minneapolis tragedy of 2007. Our response to this is here; we will send out the necessary alerts if this threat becomes real.
A bill to eliminate the TE program was introduced into the House last Friday by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and currently has four cosponsors. One threat after another like this is pretty exhausting. It’s a challenge to discern real threats from grandstanding; too many alerts that say “the sky is falling” can quickly lead to fatigue – especially if the threat never seems to materialize. We try to be careful about this and work closely with the America Bikes coalition staff and member groups to pick the right battles to fight: our man on Capitol Hill, Walter Finch, is in and out of Congressional offices trying to stay on top of all the latest developments.
Make no mistake, however, about two things. First, it does feel like it’s open season on the TE program, a core funding program for bicycling projects; and second, your voices really do make a difference in saving that program. When 12,000 e-mails or 800 constituents arrive in Congress in support of bicycling, that gets noticed … and so does any visit you can make to your elected officials in their home districts.
Stay tuned, this issue will run and run.