Anti-bike amendment killed by U.S. Senate
An attempt to divert federal Transportation Enhancement funds to bridge repairs, and thereby eliminate an estimated $700 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects, was soundly defeated in the U.S. Senate in late September.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, authored the amendment to the transportation appropriation bill which sets funding levels for fiscal year 2012. Critics of Paul's amendment argued it would not significantly impact the state of repair of bridges but would have drastically impacted active transportation investments. Sixty senators voted against the measure.
"We agree on the need to keep our bridges safe, but the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too, argued the League of American Bicyclists, which rallied its members against the amendment. "Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007. Since then, close to 20,000 pedestrians and 2,800 cyclists have died on our nation's highways, largely as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe nonmotorized infrastructure - exactly what the enhancement program was created to fix."
The league pointed out that the TE program "represents less than two percent of the federal transportation program and these projects help alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety, get people active and create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects."
While Paul railed against "squirrel sanctuaries" as a possible use of enhancement funds, California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer pointed out that Paul's amendment would actually hinder bridge repair in certain instances. "The amendment prevents a bridge from being fixed if it is a historic bridge," Boxer said. "There are thousands of those in this country, including the Brooklyn Bridge."
This was the third time in two months that the Senate voted to protect Transportation Enhancements.
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