Highways, Bridges and Roads

Bicyclists worry safety provisions will be dealt away in possible highway bill compromise

{mosads}”If Senate negotiators give in, local governments across the country
would lose the ability to access transportation funds for bike lanes and
sidewalks — projects that local officials find crucial to reduce
traffic fatalities, keep downtowns economically competitive, and
increase daily physical activity for kids and adults,” she continued.

Hall said bike and pedestrian funding has traditional taken up “a modest portion of federal transportation investments — one to two percent of all transportation funding.”

But she said the funding was crucial because “[B]icycle riders and pedestrians represent 14 percent of roadway fatalities, and two-thirds of these deaths occur on federal-aid highways.

“Over 50,000 pedestrians were killed on American roads between 2001 and 2010, pointing to a terrible safety record of our national highway system’s roads,” she said.

House Republicans have defended their push for what they have called reforms such as the opt-out provision for bike and pedestrian funding.

“House Republicans want to get a highway bill done,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a news conference last week. “We just want to make sure it’s a bill that includes real reforms to ensure that taxpayer funds are paying for legitimate projects that support economic activity, not planting more flowers in beautification projects around the country.”

Lawmakers have until the end of the week to reach an agreement on the bike funding and other outstanding issues between the two chambers in the highway bill negotiations, like the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

If they do not reach an agreement on at least another temporary extension of the highway bill that was supposed to have expired in 2009, the federal government’s ability to spend money on road and transit projects will end on June 30. The legislation that is pending also contains the government’s ability to collect the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that has been traditionally used to fund the bulk of federal transportation projects.

The House has already passed a extension of the current funding measure through Sept. 30, but the measure would also have to be approved by the Senate before Saturday to become law.

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