AASHTO Takes Aim at Bike/Ped Regulations

The Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently published a letter to the US Department of Transportation recommending weakening the federal requirement for adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities to roadway projects. This recommendation is understandable, given the fierce fight for resources in today’s tight budget climate, but extremely short-sighted.

Some background: the Highway Trust Fund, established in the 1950s to finance the interstate highway system, has suffered from starvation due to flat fuel taxes (since 1997), reduced buying power of those taxes through inflation, and fewer miles driven since 2007? (i.e. reduced demand for gas) due to the economy, more fuel-efficient cars and higher gas prices. Intended as a way for motorists to pay for highways, it has been bailed out by general taxes to the tune of $8 billion in 2008, $7 billion in 2009, $19.5 billion in 2010, and is projected to be insolvent again by the end of fiscal year 2012.

However, the percentage of federal roadway money spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities is minuscule (about 2% in FY 2010), and a sustained commitment is necessary to build our transportation network to offer a true choice of modes – walking, biking, transit and/or driving. It’s a win-win in any case: better walking and biking facilities are usually incidental to the cost of building roads or bridges, they’re healthier for the participants, plus they reduce congestion and pollution for everyone.

Consider this picture, which I took while walking the 1.5 miles from the commuter train station near Frederick, MD to pick up my car at the dealer (don’t ask). This bridge, MD 85 under I-270, appeared to be recently constructed and had a number of nice features, such as the stone work shown, and should have been built with room to walk, but wasn’t.

Please use this link to express your opinion of whether bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be required, or just considered.

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