2010 Legislative Archives

This page includes archives of the Safe Routes Partnership's legislative actions in 2010.  Since this is a historical archive, links may not work.  Current information on our legislative priorities is available on our National webpage. You may also visit our legislative archives by year.

Legislative Archives 2010

Summing up the past two years and looking ahead
December 14, 2010

Safe Routes to School gained a lot of supporters and momentum in the past two years.

All pieces of legislation must be re-introduced in the new Congress. We will be working hard in the 112th Congress to ensure strong support for Safe Routes to School with the goal of accomplishing our legislative recommendations.

Climate bill prospects dim
December 15, 2010

In the 111th Congress, a strong climate bill was proposed in both the House and Senate that would have included transportation planning and funding derived from climate revenues. While the House passed its bill, the Senate leadership determined that they did not have the votes to move forward with a comprehensive climate bill. Comprehensive climate legislation will not be taken up by the 111th Congress, and prospects look dim in the next Congress given the new House leadership. However, Senator Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee has indicated that she plans to keep focusing on reducing carbon emissions in the coming year through more limited measures.

Sign up for meetings with Members of Congress to support Safe Routes to School
December 13, 2010
Do you want to help protect and sustain Safe Routes to School funding? If so, please sign up to participate in a meeting with a Member of Congress in your home district. Just fill out some basic information at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NX6T8MW so we know how to contact you and which Congressional district you live in. This is your opportunity to make sure your U.S. Representative knows why Safe Routes to School is important. Read more

Safe Routes Partnership Collaborating with the CDC to Aid in Policy Change

December 10, 2010
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has initiated funding for local health departments with stimulus dollars through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program. They are funding 52 communities to further their policy work in the areas of Tobacco and Obesity. The Safe Routes Partnership has been contracted to provide technical assistance to the CPPW communities in the form of group training events, individualized consultation, peer learning opportunities and access to nationwide best practices that are customized for their unique situation. Read More

Congress wraps up and plans for next year

December 8, 2010
During November and December, Congressional leaders have been working to finish remaining business for this year and to lock in the leaders for next year’s session. It looks likely that before adjourning, Congress will take up a six-month extension to the surface transportation bill, which would allow Congress time to work on a new authorization bill.

While final decisions have not yet been made on Committee leaders, it is expected that Rep. Mica (R-FL) and Rep. Rahall (D-WV) will be tapped as the Chair and Ranking member, respectively, for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A lead transportation staffer for likely Chair Rep. Mica has already started floating initial ideas for the next transportation bill and has indicated that gas tax increases are off the table, which will require significant cuts in highway and transit programs. Approximately $7-8 billion would need to be cut from highway spending, and according to the staffer, programs that require states to fund bicycle and pedestrian improvements could be on the chopping block. Remember that whatever votes take place, efforts to cut programs would need to get through both the Senate and the Administration.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to meet with Congressional supporters to gather information, discuss strategies and solidify champions to protect and strengthen Safe Routes to School. Advocates should be prepared to help defend programs like Safe Routes to School in the next Congress. We will be alerting you as to when and how your help is needed.

Safe Routes Partnership joins Equity Caucus to alleviate transportation disparities

December 8, 2010
PolicyLink and Transportation for America have joined together to launch a new Equity Caucus. The purpose of the caucus is to call attention to the millions of low-income people that live in communities where quality transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable or nonexistent. The Equity Caucus is dedicated to advancing transportation policy that provides economic and social equity. The Safe Routes Partnership joined the Equity Caucus because we share their commitment to the principles that all people deserve access to affordable transportation that promotes healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

EPA releases draft of voluntary school siting guidelines; Safe Routes Partnership participated in review group
December 8, 2010
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a draft of voluntary guidelines for siting schools. This draft is now open for public comment until February 18, 2010. School districts face difficult choices when a new school is needed, including whether to renovate the existing school or to identify a new location for the school. Over the years, school campuses have gotten increasingly larger and are located farther and farther from the children they serve. The percentage of children who live within a mile of school has dropped from 41% in 1969 to 31% in 2009.The EPA was charged by Congress to develop the draft school siting guidelines to provide school systems with a voluntary framework to use when making decisions about selecting school sites. During the development of this draft, the EPA convened a school siting task group as part of the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee. The Safe Routes Partnership was asked to join the task group. We advocated that the school siting guidelines clearly address the positive health and environmental benefits that can come from siting schools near the children they serve and ensuring safe routes for children to walk and bicycle to school. We are pleased that the draft guidelines set a good balance between examining the positive aspects of a prospective school site and avoiding hazardous sites. We are also glad to see that the draft encourages states to review their policies that affect school siting and ensure they are supportive of healthy and safe schools. We are currently working on more detailed comments that support the smart growth and safe routes to school aspects of the draft guidelines and make additional recommendations and suggestions. We will make these comments available to Safe Routes to School supporters in January; at that time, we will encourage you to submit comments of your own.

Election results are in; impact on transportation bill uncertain
November 10, 2010
Last week’s elections are resulting in many changes in Congress, with Republicans taking control of the House and the Democrats retaining control of the Senate, although with smaller margins. Key changes include:

  • Long-time Safe Routes to School champion Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lost his House seat in a close re-election.
  • There will be new leadership at the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. It is expected that the Chairmanship will go to Rep. Mica (R-FL) and that the top Democratic “Ranking Member” slot will go to Rep. Rahall (D-WV). Rep. Mica has already indicated he will work hard to pass a robust, long-term transportation bill.
  • It is expected that Chairman Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member Inhofe (R-OK) will retain their leadership of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Specific to Safe Routes to School, it is even more important to convey the economic, safety and health benefits of Safe Routes to School and the positive results it is having throughout Congressional districts in all 50 states. Fortunately, Safe Routes to School does have bipartisan support, and several House Republicans attended Safe Routes to School events in their districts this fall. It is helpful to remember that the Safe Routes to School program was originally created and funded in 2005 when Republicans were in the majority in both the House and Senate, and had the Presidency. Overall, it is important that Safe Routes to School supporters keep producing results and sharing local successes with their Members of Congress. We will continue to keep you informed and provide further direction as the outlook for federal transportation policy becomes clearer.

State networks host policy maker educational visits
November 10, 2010
In September and October, our State Network Project organizers planned and participated in walk and bike to school promotional events. These celebrations were coordinated by local teams and were attended by thousands of kids and parents, school staff, local and state elected officials, network partners and most notably, Congressional members and US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. Examples of the events include:

  • Congressman John Mica (R-FL) remarked upon the safety benefits of Safe Routes to School at an event at Westside Elementary School in Daytona Beach, FL.
  • Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo recognized the participation of Kentucky schools in International Walk to School Day and the link between physical activity and health.
  • US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood walked with students at East Silver Spring Elementary School in Maryland, reaffirming his support for Safe Routes to School.
  • Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) walked with families to Beaumont Elementary School in Knoxville, TN and indicated he was pleased to see Safe Routes to School in action.
  • Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) spoke to the press about the health benefits of Safe Routes to School at an event at Omro Middle School in Omro, WI.

States on a roll in obligating Safe Routes to School funds
November 10, 2010

The Safe Routes Partnership’s new "State of the States" shows that in the third quarter of 2010, state Departments of Transportation (DOT) awarded $15 million in funds and obligated nearly $41 million. This quarter had the most funds obligated since we have been tracking the program. The amount of funds obligated each quarter has been increasing steadily all year, demonstrating that states are focusing on getting projects built and implemented. Take a look at the chart and see how your state DOT is doing. If your state is below the national average, we encourage you to contact your state DOT to ask about a plan for increasing obligation rates for SRTS.

Send a heartfelt thanks to Congressman Oberstar
November 3, 2010

As you have probably heard, Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) lost his House seat in a close electoral race. Rep. Oberstar authored the original Safe Routes to school legislation that created the national program in all 50 states and, as Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had proposed strengthening Safe Routes to School in the next transportation bill. The Safe Routes Partnership sent a letter of thanks to Congressman Oberstar. We encourage Safe Routes to School supporters across the country to take a few moments to send an e-mail or letter to Congressman Oberstar at jim.oberstar@mail.house.gov to thank him for his legacy of creating the Safe Routes to School program.

Transportation on hold till later this fall
October 7, 2010
Congress came back from the August recess for a short three-week legislative session in Washington, DC. Under pressure from Members who wanted to get back to their home districts to campaign, the House and Senate leadership adjourned a week early, on October 1. Over the next six weeks, Members of Congress will be in campaign mode. Congress has not moved forward on a long-term transportation bill, and the current transportation extension that is funding Safe Routes to School and other surface transportation programs expires on December 31, 2010. So, Members will need to return after the November elections for a “lame duck” session to either extend the transportation bill or move some transportation policy. The elections will have a big impact on what happens with the extension and also with the longer-term transportation bill.

Congress moves forward on several bills of interest
October 1, 2010 

  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) became the 26th Senator to sign on in support of S. 1156, the Safe Routes to School Program reauthorization bill.
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Rep. Anh Cao (R-LA) introduced the Fit for L.I.F.E. Act, focused on providing targeted resources to fight childhood obesity in low-income, rural and Native American communities. The Safe Routes Partnership worked with Rep. Fudge’s office to include language that would provide community policing grants to help address personal safety challenges around schools in low-income communities.
  • The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on H.R. 4690, the Livable Communities Act. This is the House version of S. 1619. The Livable Communities Act would create a grant program to support planning and implementation of projects that integrate transportation, housing, land use and economic development concerns. The Senate bill includes language offered by Sen. Merkley that adds school siting as an eligible use of planning funds and also beefs up bicycling and walking language. We are working with our partners to add similar language to the House bill as well.

Congress returns to DC in mid-September
September 9, 2010
Congress has been in recess for most of the past month, but will be returning to Washington, DC the week of September 13, 2010. There is likely to be a flurry of activity in the subsequent few weeks as Members of Congress try to move several pending bills before adjourning in early October. Given the very limited time remaining on the legislative calendar, we are now hearing that it is unlikely that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) will release a draft transportation bill in September. Instead, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is expected to release a series of principles or white papers describing her intended approach towards a transportation bill. As the current transportation extension expires on December 31, 2010, Congress must pass some form of extension or transportation bill before the end of the year.

Federal Officials Walk to School in DC
August 24, 2010
Maury Elementary in Washington, DC hosted a great walk and bicycle to school event on August 24, 2010. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez participated in an extremely large walking school bus, with dozens and dozens of children and parents turning out in a local park to start the walk and bicycle to school. Both Secretary Duncan and Administrator Mendez spoke about the importance of the federal Safe Routes to School program and the Let’s Move campaign in getting more kids physically active. Local DC leaders Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Councilman Tommy Wells (who serves as co-chair of the DC Safe Routes to School Network) also attended and spoke about how important it is that neighborhood schools are safe and attractive options for families.

Senate making progress on two bills
August 11, 2010
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has become a cosponsor of S. 1156, the Senate Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization bill, bringing us to 25 Senate cosponsors. Our lead sponsors have all had recent conversations with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) about Safe Routes to School. EPW Committee staff has indicated that a draft will likely be available during September. In addition, the Senate Banking Committee recently approved S. 1619, The Livable Communities Act. The legislation creates a grant program to support planning and implementation of projects that integrate transportation, housing, and land use. Sen. Merkley (D-OR) successfully offered an amendment to allow recipients of planning groups to assess their school siting policies and school locations for opportunities to locate schools closer to students and increase the rates of walking and bicycling to school. The legislation must still be passed by the full Senate, and considered by the House before it can become law.

States show momentum in spending SRTS funds in second quarter
August 11, 2010
In the second quarter of 2010, states announced another $48 million in Safe Routes to School funds - bringing this to a total of $544 million. That is nearly all of the funds originally authorized for Safe Routes to School for FY2005-2009 ($597 million). On the obligation front, states obligated $31 million in funds in the second quarter of 2010; obligation is a good measure of when a project is close to being built or implemented. This $31 million is 50% greater than last quarter, showing that states are building momentum around obligation. All but 11 states obligated funds during this quarter. States have obligated $293 million, about half of the FY2005-2009 funds and 38% of all currently available funds (through FY2010).

New federal funding sources announced
July 8, 2010
Two recent announcements provide potential funding opportunities for communities:

  • US DOT and HUD are collaborating for the next round of grants for DOT’s TIGER grants and HUD’s Sustainable Community Challenge grants. $75 million is available for planning that encompasses transportation, land use and housing.
  • HHS will be directing $74 million from the Prevention and Public Health Investment Fund, which was created by the health reform bill, to federal, state and community initiatives to address obesity prevention, nutrition, physical activity, HIV prevention and tobacco control. Another $16 million will be used for obesity prevention and fitness as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. Details have not yet been announced about how to apply.

SRTS Making Progress in the Senate
July 7, 2010
Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Specter (D-PA) have joined as cosponsors for S. 1156, the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization bill. We now have a total of 24 Senators publicly supporting strengthening and expanding the federal Safe Routes to School program. Having so many Senators supporting the legislation makes a strong statement to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is currently working on a draft transportation bill, about the value of Safe Routes to School.

Safe Routes to School avoids a House vote to cut it—for now
June 16, 2010
In response to a threat of a potential floor vote to cut Safe Routes to School funding through Rep. Cantor’s (R-VA) YouCut initiative, advocates across the country contacted their Members of Congress to ask them to vote against any cuts to Safe Routes to School. More than 1150 people emailed their Members of Congress in a 24-hour period, plus many others called their Representative directly. Safe Routes to School will not be subject to a floor vote this week as one of the other YouCut options, selling off excess federal property, got the most votes. However, Rep. Cantor’s press secretary has indicated that bicycling and walking will likely be the subject of future YouCut votes, so we must remain vigilant. Thank you so much to all the organizations and individuals that responded to the threat and helped raise awareness of the importance of Safe Routes to School.

Help respond to attack on federal Safe Routes to School funding
June 14, 2010
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor has targeted the federal Safe Routes to School program as wasteful government spending as part of his YouCut program. Rep. Cantor asks people to vote for which of five options they would cut from the federal budget. Republicans then hold a floor vote in the House of Representatives to try and eliminate the program that gets the most votes. This week, the federal Safe Routes to School program is one of Rep. Cantor’s targets. He argues that SRTS duplicates other bicycling and walking programs, and that bicycling and walking infrastructure is a local government responsibility. Please take 3 minutes to send a message to your Member of Congress to ask them to vote against any effort to cut Safe Routes to School.

Senate Committee working on draft transportation bill
June 8, 2010
There is movement again on the next transportation bill. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has started working behind the scenes on drafting a new surface transportation bill. While the bill will likely not be written and released for review until later this summer, the Safe Routes Partnership is continuing to talk with the committee staff about our requests to strengthen and expand the Safe Routes to School program. Over the next month, we will be working with our Senate champions to continue to express their support for Safe Routes to School.

Groups thank DOT, HHS and CDC for their leadership on bicycling and walking
June 8, 2010
Thanks to all the national, state and local partners that joined us on letters thanking our federal agency champions for their leadership on livable, sustainable communities:

Partnership supports Kerry-Lieberman climate bill; seeks additional funding
June 8, 2010
Senators Kerry and Lieberman continue to work with Senate leadership to determine a way forward for their climate bill, the American Power Act. Released in late April, the bill includes strong transportation planning provisions that would require states and large MPOs to write plans for reducing greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. It would also dedicate a maximum of $6.25 billion per year to transportation, divided roughly equally between three categories:  Future rounds of the DOT TIGER multi-modal competitive grants; Funds to support the transportation emissions planning and resulting "green transportation" projects; and the highway trust fund, with a requirement that any funded projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Safe Routes Partnership joined with America Bikes in a letter to Senators Kerry and Lieberman to praise the policy language on transportation, and the significant increase in funding dedicated to clean, green transportation. However, our coalition made the case that additional transportation funding is needed for investments in sustainable transportation options for Americans. We should know more in June or July about next steps for the American Power Act.

Give a “thumbs up” to the Partnership’s comments on the USDOT strategic plan
May 14, 2010
The US Department of Transportation is circulating a draft strategic plan for comment. The draft plan includes a number of provisions that would help improve bicycle and pedestrian safety and create more livable communities. The Safe Routes Partnership has posted comments on the plan commending USDOT for their focus, while also making a number of recommendations for how the plan could be strengthened. Please take a few minutes to visit the website and show your support for Safe Routes to School by hitting the "thumbs up" next to our comments. You do have to create an account in order to register your support, which should only take a minute.

New “State of the States” shows state DOTs award nearly $50 million in new SRTS projects
May 13, 2010
Each quarter, the Safe Routes Partnership issues a “state of the states” report to show how much progress states are making in using their Safe Routes to School funds. Our most recent report covers the first quarter of 2010. The report shows that states have awarded 74% of their available Safe Routes to School funds, meaning that the states have announced more than $466 million in projects for local communities. However, the average obligation rate is just 42%. Obligation means that the state has either spent Safe Routes to School funds or contracted to spend them – it’s a good measure of when the projects are close to being built or implemented. We encourage you to take a look and see how your state is doing compared with the national average.

Obesity Task Force highlights Safe Routes to School in Recommendations
May 11, 2010
The Interagency Childhood Obesity Task Force and First Lady Michelle Obama released a new report and action plan, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation. The plan sets a goal of ending childhood obesity in a generation, and lays out 70 specific recommendations. The Partnership is pleased to report that Part C of the physical activity section of the report (page 78 of the pdf) focuses on the built environment. It includes an entire section discussing how SRTS programs and communities are working to increase levels of walking and bicycling to school throughout America.

CDC Issues Recommendations on Transportation Policy
May 3, 2010
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy that demonstrates the impact transportation has on health. One of the recommendations is to provide states with tools to help them evaluate and expand investments in Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Senate climate bill negotiations break down
May 3, 2010
Finally, the climate bill recently had its momentum thrown to a halt. A bipartisan group of Senators—Senators Kerry (D-MA), Lieberman (I-CT), and Graham (R-SC)—had been negotiating compromise language on a climate and energy security bill. One of the bill’s reported provisions would have directed some climate funds to the transportation sector to help fill the funding shortfall that has been holding up the transportation bill. Shortly before the proposal outline was to be released last week, Senator Graham pulled out of the negotiations over concerns that Senate leadership would move an immigration reform bill before the climate bill. Senators Kerry and Lieberman did go ahead and send their draft proposal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review. The next month will be critical to see if Senator Graham and Senate leadership can resolve their differences and move forward with Senate consideration of a climate bill.

Secretary LaHood Participates in SRTS Event
April 23, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) participated in a walk to school event at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Indianapolis on April 23. The Partnership’s steering committee vice-chair Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists also led a bike train for students. LaHood then accompanied Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) to a Safe Routes to School kick-off event at St. Joan of Arc School, also in Indianapolis. The Secretary blogged about his experience, and enthusiastically wrote about the benefits of Safe Routes to School.

Hubsmith Testifies on Bike/Ped Safety Before Senate Committee
April 14, 2010
Deb Hubsmith, Director of the Safe Routes Partnership, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Safe Routes to School and bicycle and pedestrian safety on April 14, 2010. In her testimony, Hubsmith called attention to the grave disparities between the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed each year in traffic crashes and the small proportion of funding that is used by states to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. She highlighted Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets, increasing the use of safety funds for bicycle and pedestrian safety, and improving data collection as ways to address these disparities. Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) asked Hubsmith questions on bicycle and pedestrian safety. The hearing can be viewed on the Senate EPW Committee’s website; Hubsmith’s testimony begins approximately 60 minutes into the video, and the questions follow at the end.

Partnership Participates in White House Childhood Obesity Summit
April 9, 2010
Earlier in the month, on April 9, Margo Pedroso, Deputy Director of the Safe Routes Partnership, participated in the White House Childhood Obesity Summit. The built environment, land use planning, and Safe Routes to School were mentioned by several participants in the summit. Input from summit participants will be incorporated into a forthcoming childhood obesity action plan.

Secretary LaHood Leads the Way for Bicycling and Walking
April 1, 2010
Secretary Ray LaHood of the US Department of Transportation issued a new "Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation." The policy statement recommends that state DOTs and communities treat bicycling and walking as an equal transportation mode, incorporate bike/ped facilities into transportation projects, set mode share targets for bicycling and walking, collect data on bicycling and walking, and more. The Alliance for Bicycling and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists are leading efforts to counteract negative comments from Members of Congress on this policy, and helping advocates craft responses.

Transportation Extension Passes; Senate Focusing on Reauthorization
April 1, 2010
Since our last update, Congress has passed the long-term transportation extension through December 2010, -meaning that the federal Safe Routes to School program will be funded at the FY2009 level of $183 million throughout the remainder of FY2010 and the first quarter of FY2011. The Federal Highway Administration should be issuing the memo within a few weeks that gives states their exact apportionments for all transportation programs. Once the memo has been issued, the Partnership will be working with state and local advocates to ensure that state Departments of Transportation make plans to hold new SRTS grant cycles that will put the newly available funds to good use in schools and communities across the country.

Senator Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has also publicly stated that she wants to move forward on the full transportation reauthorization bill this year. The Committee has started holding more hearings, and staff is starting to work on drafting legislation. It is important that advocates continue to contact their Senators to ask for their support of S. 1156, the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization Act. Fortunately, we are now up to 22 Senators in support, with Senator Murray (D-WA) the latest addition. In the House, during the National Bike Summit bike advocates were successful in getting 16 new sponsors for H.R. 4021, the Safe Routes to High Schools Act, bringing the total supporters to 39 Representatives.

Health Care Overhaul Bill Includes Program that Could Benefit SRTS
April 1, 2010
During the month of March, Congress passed health care overhaul legislation. One of the provisions included in the bill creates "Community Transformation" grants. Funds will be awarded competitively to State and local government agencies or community-based organizations to implement policy, environmental, programmatic and infrastructure changes needed to promote healthy living and reduce health disparities. Several eligible activities focus on enhancing physical activity, including "creating the infrastructure to support active living." This could prove to be a potential future funding opportunity for Safe Routes to School programming, although it could be many months (if not a year) before grant applications are available. The Safe Routes Partnership will monitor the creation of this new program.

Partnership Submits Comments Linking SRTS to Federal Childhood Obesity Efforts
March 23, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama and the federal Task Force on Childhood Obesity are developing a national action plan on childhood obesity. The SRTS Safe Routes Partnership submitted detailed comments on Safe Routes to School, active transportation networks, and Complete Streets. Nearly 100 SRTS supporters also submitted comments to the Task Force. We continue to work with our federal agency partners and the First Lady’s office to raise the profile of Safe Routes to School within this movement.

Long-term transportation extension on tap
March 8, 2010
A great deal of back-and-forth has been happening on the transportation and jobs bills since our last update. The last week of February, the Senate moved forward on its jobs bill, a much smaller and more focused bill. It includes a long-term extension for SAFETEA-LU until December 31, 2010 but does not include any new stimulus funding for surface transportation. Due to procedural hurdles, the House and Senate were not able to agree on the final jobs bill (including the transportation extension) before the end of February, so SAFETEA-LU actually expired for two days. Congress has since passed another short-term extension allowing SAFETEA-LU to continue through March. The House has also just passed a slightly tweaked version of the Senate jobs bill. At this point, the Senate must vote one final time on the jobs bill before it can be signed into law. Once that happens, SAFETEA-LU will be operating under the long-term extension. The federal Safe Routes to School program (and all other SAFETEA-LU programs) will be funded throughout the remainder of FY2010 and the first quarter of FY2011 at the FY2009 funding level.

It is also expected that within a few weeks, Congress will pass language that will allow Safe Routes to School and several other transportation programs to receive an allocation of additional “bonus formula funds” which could increase funding for Safe Routes to School by another 7 to 10 percent for FY2010. Finally, the Senate will likely move forward on other larger jobs bills in the coming weeks and months, and there is still talk that one of these bills will include additional funding for transportation, similar to last year’s stimulus funding.

Alternative climate legislation soon to be released
March 8, 2010
Senators Kerry (D-MA), Lieberman (I-CT), and Graham (R-SC) have been working behind the scenes to develop a bipartisan compromise on a climate and energy security bill. Majority Leader Reid has asked the Senators to release their compromise within the next few weeks in hopes that the Senate could consider climate legislation yet this year. It remains to be seen what will be included in the compromise bill specific to transportation, although it seems likely that there will be some kind of carbon tax on fuels that could be used for green transportation projects or supplementing the highway trust fund.

Active Community Transportation Act Introduced
March 2, 2010
Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act (the ACT Act). The legislation would create a $2 billion competitive grant program to help communities build networks of bicycling and walking infrastructure. H.R. 4722 would allow communities to access multi-year, large grants to build complete bicycle and pedestrian facilities that connect homes to jobs, schools, recreation, and shops. The Safe Routes Partnership has endorsed the ACT Act, as it presents an exciting opportunity to make bicycling and walking to schools, work and other destinations safer and more viable. To take action on this bill, please visit the Rails-to-Trails action alert page to take action!

SRTS highlighted at US DOT listening session
February 19, 2010
The US DOT sponsored a listening session for the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill in Los Angeles, California. During the plenary session, many questions were raised about the role of Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and health in US DOT and Congressional priorities. Secretary Ray LaHood emphasized the DOT’s focus on livability and told the crowd, “we get it!” In response to these questions Senator Boxer stated, “this is real, we’re working to create healthy sustainable communities.” Later in the day, Safe Routes Partnership Director Deb Hubsmith spoke on a panel focused on transportation safety.

First Lady Michelle Obama focuses on childhood obesity
February 3, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama has selected her signature policy focus, and it will be childhood obesity. In a January 20, 2010 speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mrs. Obama promised to unveil a “major initiative” in February to combat childhood obesity. While details have not yet been released, her speech at the event indicated it would include healthier school lunches, increasing physical activity, and greater access to healthy foods and nutrition education. The First Lady cited a number of examples from mayors around the country, including Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck of Arlington, TX who issued pedometers to children to encourage them to walk more, and Mayor Darwin Hindman of Columbia, MO for his community’s efforts to build more paths and bike trails connecting homes to schools and businesses. The Safe Routes Partnership applauds the First Lady’s attention to childhood obesity and the need to get more children physically active.

Join Advocates from Across the Country at the National Bike Summit
February 3, 2010
The League of American Bicyclists is hosting their tenth annual National Bike Summit from March 9-11, 2010 in Washington DC. We will also be participating in a breakout session on March 10 at 2:30 p.m. entitled “Strengthening Safe Routes to School in the Next Transportation Bill.” Come and learn more about our reauthorization recommendations, the Congressional environment for the transportation bill, and data and facts you can use to “sell” Safe Routes to School to your Members of Congress. If you are a SRTS advocate attending the National Bike Summit, please contact Margo Pedroso so that we can help you make the most of your visit to the nation’s capitol, and provide you with state-specific SRTS fact sheets you can use in your Hill meetings.

Transportation bill in a holding pattern; jobs bill under discussion
February 3, 2010
Since Senate Democrats no longer hold a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, bills that are controversial or require the outlay of significant new funding—like the transportation and climate bills—are more difficult to pass. Senate leaders have started negotiations on their jobs package. The Senate may work on several jobs bills, and it looks like funding for transportation (including Transportation Enhancements) will be included, but at a lower level than the House-passed jobs bill. It is possible that infrastructure funding could be held back for a future bill. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Transportation continues to hold listening sessions around the country to discuss the future of the transportation bill. Network organizers in Louisiana and Minnesota attended the first two listening sessions to discuss the importance of the federal Safe Routes to School program for safety and livability.

New “State of the States” Shows Slowdown in SRTS Award and Obligation Rates
February 3, 2010
The Partnership strongly encourages state Departments of Transportation (DOT) to keep moving forward on awarding any remaining Safe Routes to School funds, and to get the funds obligated as quickly as possible. Our February 2010 quarterly update shows that both award and obligation rates slowed in the first quarter of FY2010. The Partnership will continue to work with our state networks and other advocates to emphasize the importance of getting these federal funds spent in local communities.

Partnership Encourages DOT’s RITA to Prioritize Research on SRTS
January 28, 2010
The US Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) has requested public comment on the development of their 2010-2015 strategic planning initiative. The Safe Routes Partnership submitted comments encouraging RITA to conduct research on a range of Safe Routes to School topics that will help spur additional investment in Safe Routes to School and get more children walking and bicycling to school.

Congress passes transportation extension
January 7, 2010
Before adjourning for the holidays, Congress passed an extension to the current SAFETEA-LU transportation bill, which allows transportation funds to continue to flow until February 28, 2010. All existing programs, including Safe Routes to School, will continue to be funded at their FY2009 levels through the end of February. The House also included a provision in other legislation (the jobs bill) to extend SAFETEA-LU until September 30, 2010—if the Senate concurs, action on the transportation bill would slip until late this year or next year.

House moves forward on jobs bill that includes transportation funding
January 7, 2010
In December, the House passed the "Jobs for Main Street Act," focused on creating and saving jobs. The House bill includes $75 billion for a variety of programs, including $27.5 billion for surface transportation and $8.4 billion for transit. The Senate will reconvene in mid-January and one of their first priorities is to work on its version of the jobs bill. While the final jobs bill may differ from the House’s "Jobs for Main Street Act," there are several provisions in the House bill of interest:

  1. The surface transportation fund would be allocated similarly to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) economic stimulus that was passed in February 2009-including a minimum 3% set-aside for Transportation Enhancements, which amounts to $800 million. Many sidewalk, curb cut and bicycle infrastructure projects were funded under the ARRA bill, so this may be an opportunity for significant funding for Safe Routes to School projects.
  2. States would also be required to put half of their funding under contract within 90 days of the bill’s passage, which is significantly faster than the ARRA provisions. This could potentially help smaller ready-to-go bicycle and pedestrian projects that would be able to move more quickly through the contracting process.