Based on recent rhetoric, the draft budget released by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) shouldn’t surprise transportation advocates. Streetsblog DC takes a deep dive into the proposal and discovers quite a lot to dislike if you believe in active transportation, transit, and complete streets:
- The budget singles out using the gas tax for anything but highways
- The budget actually cuts overall transportation spending over the next 10 years versus current levels at the same time studies show that the Interstate system and many bridges are crumbling
- The budget blames spending on non-highways for the shortfalls in the highway trust fund (funded by gas taxes) and specifically calls out bikeway spending
- The budget also calls for ceasing federal funding for intercity rail projects and pushing for rail to be done solely as private projects
Given that even certain members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee feel that “bike trails” shouldn’t be a part of transportation plans, this was almost to be expected. Given the deep divide between the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, it’s very difficult to say what the end budget will actually say or do.
These federal shenanigans occur while locally the Minnesota legislature is passing legislation to make serious cutbacks in Metro Transit and other transit-based funding.
Obviously, where possible, writing your state and federal representatives is a good idea. Neither locally nor federally should we follow the example of Indiana, where INDOT has released a long-range plan that relies almost entirely on highway construction. It should be increasingly obvious to people of all political stripes that this kind of expansion is not effective for cost or function, and that the proper debate is how to move forward. I guess we’ll see.