The move in the recent surface transportation law to restrict spending on transportation enhancements was a reversal of Obama administration efforts to incorporate urban “livability” initiatives into its transportation policies. The idea was to encourage development, for example, near public transportation and shopping to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
A six-year surface transportation bill proposed in 2009 by then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., embraced those concepts. But the House never came up with a formula for funding the bill, which faltered when the White House and Senate withheld support.
The League of American Bicyclists argues that investment in more bike and pedestrian paths can entice many drivers out of their cars.
In the Danish capital of Copenhagen — widely seen by transportation planners as a model for bicycle infrastructure — investments since 1996 in a $68.2 million network of bicycle paths will put half the area’s commuters on two wheels by 2025, up from 34 percent today. By comparison, the most expensive stretches of urban freeway in the United States can cost upward of $1 billion per mile.
Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said those figures make it “ironic” that lawmakers would cut funding for non-motorized commuting facilities.
Whitaker said she hopes the 113th Congress will take a fresh look at the cost savings from investing in bicycle and pedestrian routes when it takes up another surface transportation authorization in 2014.
“We truly believe the numbers speak for themselves,” she said.