When Congressman James Oberstar made the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) a part of 2005’s SAFEATEA-LU bill, the premise was simple: Try to accelerate mode-shift in four communities — including Minneapolis — and study the results. The final report was due in September 2010, although it hasn’t come through yet. An interim NTPP report was published in April 2009.
The environment in which the report now will be made is different. Republicans now control the House of Representatives, and cost-cutting is a top priority for them. Several current members of the House Transportation Committee think bicycling shouldn’t be a part of committee work. In the Senate, several members are already talking about transportation funding being restricted to roads, or that “bike paths” aren’t infrastructure. It appears that the House wants to restrict infrastructure spending to the dollars in the highway fund from the 18.5-cent gas tax — which has failed to keep up with needs and demands for even basic road upkeep, let alone new programs and ideas.
It is almost a sure thing that a report on the program will find it to be successful in Minnesota. But in the current environment, it’s hard to imagine it receiving continued federal funding beyond the initial grant. While Minneapolis has benefitted from additional grants and funding sources, Bike Walk Twin Cities (the local program administrator) has largely been spending federal dollars — over $10 million of them. Once the program cuts off, neither the city of Minneapolis nor the state of Minnesota has the cash to fund similar spending levels for a long time.
It may be very interesting to see how or if the momentum created by the original funds can be continued with a smaller revenue pot from which to pay for staff, projects and education.
Photo by Richard Roche, via Flickr/Creative Commons