By: Noa Banayan, director of federal affairs
New legislation is promising, but still falls short of answering the demand for safe and connected infrastructure.
UPDATE: Thanks to the fast mobilization of grassroots voices in key states, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed an amendment on May 26 to include the bipartisan Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act (S. 684) with $200 million/year in funding in their reauthorization bill. That’s one billion dollars throughout the five years of the bill and a huge win for the future of connected bicycle and active transportation networks. We’re grateful to the sponsors of S. 684, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), for leading this amendment effort as well.
Leaders in the U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan transportation bill this week that would significantly increase funding for bikes, but the proposed legislation falls short of offering the kind of transformative investment needed to meet the growing demand for safe and connected bike infrastructure.
First, let’s put this bill into the larger political context — Congress is supposed to authorize policy and funding for surface transportation (generally roads, bridges and railways) every five years. The last authorization, the FAST Act, was set to expire in 2020, but Congress agreed to extend it through 2021. This bought more time to work on a reauthorization bill and figure out how to fund everything. The Senate’s legislation is intended for 2022-2026, and this is just the first step. The House of Representatives will produce their own version soon, and eventually, both chambers and the Biden administration will have to agree on policy, funding and how to pay for it.
Today, with a demand for better infrastructure coming from both the White House and communities across the nation, we might actually see a reauthorization of transportation policy turned into law.
Let’s dive into the details — unfortunately, what we would like to see as a central focus of the future of active transportation policy is missing from the Senate’s bill. The Connecting America's Active Transportation System Act (S. 684) would create a $500 million/year dedicated grant program designed to help communities build out complete networks for biking, walking, rolling, scooting, etc. The sponsors of the bill, Senators Markey (D) and Sullivan (R) are pushing for an amendment to include the act in the reauthorization bill as it moves through the legislative process, and we are 100% in support.