Senator Robert Venables (left), Governor Jack Markell (center) and Representative Helene Keeley (right)
Both the Delaware House and Senate voted unanimously Saturday evening to approve a capital budget for the state of Delaware, including an unprecedented $13.25 million for walking and bicycling, a 90% increase over last year’s state commitment to walking and bicycling. With about 900,000 people, this represents approximately a $15 per capita funding commitment by the state of Delaware. To put that in context, an equivalent per capita level of funding in the state of California would be $550 million.
Ironically, the unanimous vote in the Delaware Senate at around 8PM came just a little more than 24 hours after the United States Congress voted to eliminate the main federal programs for walking and bicycling. As there was not enough time to amend the bill, Delaware’s capital budget also still includes authorization for a state contribution (a much smaller sum of $388,000) to the Transportation Enhancements program, even though that program now no longer exists.
Governor Jack Markell, Senator Robert Venables (D-Laurel) and Representative Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington) all played key leadership roles in this victory for walking and bicycling. Senator Venables was recognized last year as the 2011 Bike Friendly Elected Official for his leadership.
“Our Governor, his Cabinet, and both sessions of the 146th General Assembly have made historic progress for Delaware in improving the built environment of Delaware,” said John Hollis of Sussex Outdoors and Nemours Health and Prevention Services. ”These nationally recognized improvements will give all Delawareans opportunities for a healthier lifestyle through walkability and bikeability.”
Calling last night’s vote an “historic accomplishment”, Bike Delaware Vice President Bill Osborne said it “would not have been possible without the confluence of several independent forces. First and foremost is the vision and leadership in both the Executive and Legislative branches of Delaware. Add to that the passion and commitment of the consumers/constituents who evidenced their support. Plus we had the essential benefit of an improved economic forecast that made this a decision of inclusion rather than substitution.”
Andrea Trabelsi, Managing Director of Delaware Greenways, also had high praise for Delaware. She noted that because of the “link between individual health and the infrastructure in our communities that influences our health, improvements for trails, greenways, bicycling, and walking, are ultimately making many, many lives better.”
The $13.25 million total commitment by the state is made of up two separate line items, $10.25 million for the Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and $3 million for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). DelDOT and DNREC are cooperating to create an interconnected network of shared-use trails and pathways that will support non-motorized travel and recreation opportunities for Delawareans and visitors.
The Delaware General Assembly approved $10.25 million for DelDOT to make “Bike and Pedestrian Improvements”