I love DC Streetsblog, because they’re in the capitol and thus have all kinds of opportunity to access members of Congress, congressional hearings, you name it — and they provide awesome, targeted coverage.
Today, they published an interview with US Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a new member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to learn about his priorities as a member of the committee. The big takeaway from their discussion: Hunter says roads are constitutionally mandated, but transit and bikes aren’t. Transit should be built if it can be self-supporting and pay for itself. If communities want to do bike stuff, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t come out of the work of the House Transportation Committee or somehow be mandated from the federal level.
Hunter outright says: “I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane…. I think it’s more of a recreational thing.”
The argument that roads are constitutionally mandated comes from the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, which enumerates Congressional powers. The specific statement is that Congress has the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”
Of course, back in the day, only major towns had a post house, and the roads used by post riders or mail coaches were the ‘major’ routes. The spread of postal service has blurred the traditional distinction. To go all constructionist on the issue, most roads wouldn’t qualify under this clause as mandated for federal support.
Of course, if bicycles are allowed on these constitutionally-mandated roads and they’re designed for multi-modal use, wahoo. Somehow, I’m not sure that’s how Congressman Hunter approaches the issue, and I’m pretty positive he’s not the only congresscritter with such views. Hijinks are going to ensue, undoubtedly. Welcome to the new Congress.