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More Bike Funding, Or Less?

Now that the transportation bill has passed, there has been a bit of confusion about the new law's impact on biking and walking funds. 

After the bill first passed in the conference committee, The New York Times reported in an editorial that the bill would decrease funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. They wrote: 

"There are flaws, some serious. Financing for 'transportation alternatives' — bike paths, pedestrian walkways and the like — suffered modest cuts."

Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-8) happily agreed. He released a statement saying that the new bill directs funds away from bicycle infrastructure and towards highways:

The bill "ensures taxpayer dollars are spent on high-priority infrastructure projects that support economic growth and job creation — rather than bike paths and beautification efforts."

But in a letter to the New York Times last week, Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) suggested that the new transportation bill actually increases funding for biking and walking projects. According to the Senator: 

"This legislation actually increases the amount of financing that 'transportation alternative' projects like bicycle and pedestrian pathways are eligible for, although in some cases these projects must compete for money."

So who is right?

By any honest assessment of the new policy, Speaker Boehner and the original New York Times report are, unfortunately, correct. The new transportation law includes deep and disproportionate cuts in funding for biking and walking projects. 

In 2011, the three programs that dedicated transportation funding to walking and biking — Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails — together received less than 2 percent of the bill. Now, these funds will be combined into a new program — Transportation Alternatives — and the funding is decreased by a third. 

Moreover, states may redirect Transportation Alternatives funds away from biking and walking projects and towards highway uses. In the end, the full extent of cuts to biking and walking funding could be as high as 66 percent. 

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