HomeNewsHouse Transportation Committee Seeks to Eliminate Safe Routes to School Program

House Transportation Committee Seeks to Eliminate Safe Routes to School Program

In addition to pledging not to raise the federal gasoline tax, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) announced this week that the proposed, six-year $230 billion surface transportation bill would not fund the Safe Routes to School Program.

While refraining from offering a doomsday scenario, essentially that a final vote would succeed in axing the federal biking and walking program, Margo Pedroso, executive director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, said a renewed advocacy drive to keep funding alive was in the works. She also pointed to a Senate proposal that would continue SRTS money flowing to states and local municipalities. While that proposal is not expected for another several weeks, a standalone bill currently exists in the Senate that retains verbiage created several years ago by the partnership and NASDPTS to allocate 10 percent of infrastructure funds to develop improved walking routes between student homes and their school bus stops.

“We definitely have got a lot ahead of us in terms of the congressional process,” she added. “I don’t think we’re ready to concede anything.”

Meanwhile, Mica, the chair of the House Committee on Transportation, released a proposal on July 7 that seeks to streamline and reform surface transportation programs to cut bureaucratic red-tape and to put more spending authority in the hands of local states. It cuts the current surface transportation funding legislation, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU, by 30 percent.

“Given U.S. House rules and budget constraints, this proposal maximizes the value of our available infrastructure funding through better leveraging, streamlining the project approval process, attracting private sector investment, and cutting the federal bureaucracy,” Mica said in a statement. “Most importantly, this six-year proposal provides the stability states need to plan major transportation improvements and create long-term jobs.”

Mica said the proposal prioritizes safety funding by holding highway and motor carrier safety programs harmless from any spending cuts in the bill. It also ensures that federal regulators keep unsafe trucks and buses off the road while allowing companies that operate in a safe and responsible manner to continue to do so.

     

    If the House proposal without Safe Routes to School succeeds in winning the Senate’s and the president’s approval, Pedroso said funding local programs would fall squarely on the shoulders of state and municipal governments to keep alive current and planned projects.

    The Safe Routes to School Program originated in 2005 with the passage of SAFETEA-LU, which expired at the end of September 2009. But Congress has since failed to pass reauthorization legislation and instead has OK a half-dozen continuing funding resolutions to keep state highway programs afloat.

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