Today the New York Bicycling Coalition sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, state legislators, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Places. The letter urged immediate action to ensure that tens of millions of dollars are properly directed towards investments in bicycle and pedestrian safety. NYBC worked with partners from Parks & Trails NY and with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign to author the letter. Over 100 groups and municipalities from around the state co-signed the letter. The co-signers represent broad interest in issues such as quality of life, aging, transit, bicycling, walking, trails and economic development.
With the passage of the new federal transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), New York State and its metropolitan planning organizations will now decide how to use the funds allocated to the newly-created “Transportation Alternatives” (TA) program. The pool of money previously dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian projects, via the Recreational Trails, Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools programs, has been consolidated into this new TA program. Unfortunately, these funds—which are already a tiny percentage of all federal transportation dollars—will shrink by roughly 33 percent under MAP-21. And states now also have the option of diverting half of these funds to non-bicycle-pedestrian projects, and opting out completely from the Recreational Trails program.
People choose not to walk and bike because they do not feel safe on New York’s roads. Improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure can help make our roads safer, while encouraging New Yorkers to choose healthier transportation options. Maximizing available funds for non-motorized transportation will also help the state to achieve its goals of smart growth and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The letter urges New York State to:
1. Direct 100% of the state’s Transportation Alternatives funding to improving the safety of our roads for all users and to building community infrastructure and trails that encourage walking and bicycling. We believe it is crucial that the state continue its commitment to complete streets, smart growth and active transportation. Any diversions of these funds will significantly undermine the growing movement to increase opportunities for physical activity for all New Yorkers. We also encourage New York State to utilize other MAP-21 funding programs—such as Highway Safety Improvement, Congestion Management Air Quality, and Surface Transportation Programs—to help make our communities more livable and safer for those who walk, bike and take transit to their destinations.
2. Continue the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Since RTP was established in 1993, New York State has received more than $19 million in RTP funds that have been granted to municipalities and nonprofits for more than 280 projects and leveraged an additional $12.6 million. Most of the funds have supported the construction, maintenance and development of trails for all types of recreation: trails that make important contributions to tourism and economic development, encourage healthy physical activity, and ensure persons of all ages and abilities have access to public lands.
3. Provide communities with the opportunity to apply for unspent Transportation Enhancement funds for cyclist/pedestrian projects, funds that must be returned to Washington if not distributed soon. The state currently has an estimated $30 million in dedicated, unallocated funds in the Transportation Enhancements program. If communities are not allowed the opportunity to access these funds very soon, New York State will lose them. We also encourage the state to reactivate the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Council, which could play an important role in guiding NYSDOT’s efforts to maximize bicyle-pedestrian planning and funding.
Deadlines for action are fast approaching. For the good of the economy and the health, safety, and quality of life of all New Yorkers, we urge New York State to direct its new Transportation Alternatives and prior Transportation Enhancements Program funds to complete streets, smart growth, and active transportation programs.