Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BikeWalkLee sends letter to Florida conferees for federal transportation bill

BikeWalkLee sent a letter today to the Florida members of Congress who are on the conference committee for the transportation authorization bill, urging them to craft a final bill that follows the template of the Senate-passed bipartisan bill. Below are excerpts.

May 9, 2012

Dear Senator Nelson,

BikeWalkLee is a citizen-based community coalition in Lee County, Florida, that works to raise public awareness and advocate for complete streets and a balanced multi-modal transportation system.  We are writing to urge you, as a conferee on the transportation bill,  to fight for a final bill that follows the template of the Senate-passed bipartisan MAP-21 legislation.

Lee County elected officials, both at the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Board of County Commissioners, have shown strong support for a more balanced multi-modal transportation system and one that ensures that our roads are safe and accessible for all road users.  BikeWalkLee, as well as our elected officials, have written you several times in the past year about this bill, and have also written commentaries in the local papers about the importance to our community of congressional action on this legislation.  I have attached an excellent March 21st op ed by Lee County Commissioner, Ray Judah, outlining why the Senate transportation bill is supported in our community.
Specifically, we urge you to include provisions in the conference agreement that represent significant reforms and were the result of a carefully crafted bipartisan compromise in the Senate’s MAP-21 bill. These provisions have bipartisan and bicameral support:

(1) Provide local access to funding for community-based transportation initiatives.  Members in both chambers agree that local leaders – who know the transportation, safety, and economic development needs of their constituents – should have more direct control over funds and projects in their communities. MAP-21 contains provisions that will empower local governments to program funds for projects that help revitalize main streets and improve safety and access for everyone, whether traveling by car, transit, bicycle, or foot. MAP-21 helps local communities build out a full transportation network under the “Additional Activities” program by sub-allocating funds to larger regions and offering competitive grants for others. Empowering local communities to program their tax dollars can help renew economic vitality, make areas more attractive for businesses, residents, and private investment while improving health and safety for everyone.

Having safe places to walk and bike is particularly important for Florida because our state is the most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.  The citizens of Lee County as well as our elected officials strongly support investments in walking and biking facilities and providing local control over these funds needs to be protected in conference.  It is also important to protect the "Safe Streets" policy in the Senate bill, that will require federally funded road projects in Florida to meet federal standards for safely accommodating all road users.  We know the importance of Lee County's complete streets policy and welcome a federal policy that complements and enhances our local efforts.

Today's release by America Bikes of the findings of a recent Princeton survey are a clear message to Congress--more than 80 percent of Americans favor maintaining or increasing federal funding for sidewalks and bike lanes.  The results show that Republicans, Democrats, residents in every region of the country, and every age group strongly support these investments.  Americans want safe places to bike and walk and the bill coming out of this conference needs to respond to the desires of American citizens.

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