The House Transportation Committee in a pair of votes on Thursday defeated efforts to continue mandated federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects.
The measures by Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D) and Republican Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) were beaten back by Republicans, who believe that states should be given greater flexibility to determine how federal transportation dollars are spent.
States have been required to spend a portion of federal highway funds on bike and pedestrian programs under recent long-term transportation bills, and advocates have credited that mandate for construction of bike paths, bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian improvements. But in an area when federal transportation funding has been squeezed and state and local governments are facing funding shortfalls, Republicans have argued for an end to the mandate.
The five-year bill being considered by the House committee on Thursday did not include the funding, which has been known as the Transportation Enhancements Program. A two-year bill working its way through the Senate includes the program but makes the spending optional for states rather than mandatory.
“It’s kind of a bottom line on what kind of country we’re going to be,” said Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) “We should consider bicycles when we talk about transportation projects.”
Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster replied, “This is fundamental to what we’re trying to do here. Spending money for bike paths is nice, but that’s for our communities to decide to spend these monies. It’s unfair that we’re forcing he states to spend this money.”