Transpo Update: Safe Routes and More

Mar 8, 2015 by

Transpo Update: Safe Routes and More

2015 Legislative Session – Active Transportation Interests are not Inactive!

 

March 8th, 2015

 

We are in our ninth week of the 2015 legislative session and we have some real progress to relate.

Transportation Revenue Package: First the simple facts — earlier this week the Senate passed out a series of bills that represent a new transportation revenue package. The revenue package comes with numerous political and actual content issues but when the smoke cleared from the Senate floor the Active Transportation crowd was pleased that the Senate recognized some important investments at the state-level. The sixteen year package includes three discrete line items that total $266 million:

• $56 million: Safe Routes to School grant program;
• $50 million: Bicycle & Pedestrian grant program; and
• $160 million: Complete Streets grant program.

A fairly simple revenue/expenditure balance sheet can be found here. A few additional bike/ped-specific projects bring the Active Transportation total to $281.5 million. The last full Senate Transportation Revenue package floated last year came in lower for all of Active Transportation. Safe Routes to School champion Sen. Andy Billig chipped in with SB 5724, which declared that there needs to be minimum (floor) levels of funding for Safe Routes to School projects from both state and federal sources. While this bill will not move out of committee, its purpose was achieved in the Feb. 10 hearing, which gave Active Transportation advocates another opportunity to convey our messages about the validity and importance of one specific initiative – Safe Routes to School.

So the package heads over to the House where we believe there will be as much or even more support for the pieces we care about. Again, finalizing all three budgets (Operating, Transportation & Capital) are more end-stage legislative session and there can be some political horse-trading among these budgets (especially when there is new revenue in the mix), so expect a big flurry of activity in the late March to Sine die (end of session), currently slated for April 26. There are other parts of the revenue package that are problematic to different constituent groups; so there is still much work to do before this revenue package can achieve passage. Of course, it is not unusual for our legislature to go into “extra innings” – so the fun could last deeper into spring.

Overall, we are very encouraged by the progress to date, but there is still work to be done. There does seem to be more appetite to hear about and value the importance “health lens” in the transportation sector. For more detailed information on all of this, follow our weekly bill tracker, found on this page as well as the campaign website. And stay tuned for specific advocacy opportunities before this legislative session ends.

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