Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Funding for Recreation Paths at Risk

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Funding for Recreation Paths at Risk

Article excerpt

NRPA members urged to contact their federal legislators to restore the Transportation Enhancements program.

On July 11, funding for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program for Fiscal Year 2004 was eliminated by the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies. Thanks to a massive outpouring of support for the program, which improves public health and local economies by funding pedestrian, biking and rail trails, a "manager's amendment" was offered when the bill came up for a vote by the full Appropriations Committee on July 24. The Appropriations Committee approved the bill, but funding for the TE program wasn't restored. Thus, funding for the entire TE program effectively remains cut from the FY 2004 budget bill. The House leadership would like everyone to believe that they recognized there was a problem with these cuts, and that they took action to fix the problem, but they didn't fix the problem, and the cuts remain.

At press time, it looked likely that the House appropriations bill, H.R. 2989, would come up for a vote in the full House this month. Although the sponsor wasn't known at press time, a floor amendment that would restore funding is expected. Such an amendment will need to be approved by the entire House, and such an amendment will be approved only if there's widespread public support to restore funds to the TE program.

Ensuring the return of the guaranteed funding for Transportation Enhancements is of the highest importance for NRPA, and should be considered as one of the most important legislative priorities of supporters of parks and recreation during the 108th Congress.

NRAP urges all members to contact their House member and ask them to strike the language of Section 114, return guaranteed funding to the Transportation Enhancements program, and reject any amendments to change, reduce, or flex the funding for the Transportation Enhancements program.

Talking Points When Contacting Your Legislator

Cuts mean few if any projects will be approved in the future: If Transportation Enhancement projects remain "eligible" for funding, but are stripped of funding and must compete with highway construction projects as is called for in the present bill, it's a virtual certainty that few TE projects will be approved for funding. From a historical perspective, between 1974 and 1991, only $40 million in bike-pedestrian trail projects were approved in the country. After the passage of ISTEA, the first of the multi-year modern transportation bills in 1991, the states were required to set aside up to 10 percent of federal transportation funds for Transportation Enhancements, namely bike-pedestrian trails; rails-to-trails conversion projects, restoration of historic transportation facilities; job access-reverse commute projects; and other projects in 12 categories of eligibility. From 1991 to 2003, more than $6 billion has been spent on 16,000 projects across the United States, with $3.3 billion on bike-pedestrian trail projects alone, which is almost 100 times the amount that was spent on bike-pedestrian trails when such projects had to compete with highway construction projects.

Cuts mean communities have no dedicated funds and few incentives to continue building balanced, integrated transportation systems: Congress established the TE program in 1991 to commit a minimal percentage of revenues from the gas tax to be put into small-scale, community-based, locally selected transportation enhancements. …

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