State transportation agencies recently had to return unspent money to the federal government, in a process called rescission. Twenty states cut transportation enhancement (TE) funds at or at less than their share of the overall transportation budget. Nevada chose to gut the TE program by taking 62% of the rescission from this program. Transportation enhancement funds are used for bicycle and pedestrian enhancement projects, as well as some others. Though all projects are supposed to accommodate bicyclists and walkers, they often do not, and certainly projects built in the past did not, so there is much work to do just to bring these modes to a share of the public roadways. Transportation enhancement funds can be used to make streets and highways into “complete streets,” facilities that serve all modes of transportation.
Why did Nevada have so much in unspent TE funds to begin with? Because the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) drags its feet on implementing projects to enhance biking and walking. Why did they take so much from TE? Because NDOT does not support the idea of bikers and walkers as having a right to a share of transportation infrastructure.
Rails to Trails’ rescissions page has more detail, and the linked table show just where Nevada stands. Not at the bottom, but third from the bottom, exceeded only by Nebraska and Texas. Several states, recognizing the backlog of bicycle and pedestrian projects that are critically important to safety and fairness, did not cut any funds from transportation enhancement.
Muscle Powered wrote to NDOT Administrator Susan Martinovich asking that transportation enhancement funds be cut in proportion to their share of the budget, or not at all, but we’ve received no reply. If this is important to you, you may want to write Martinovich yourself, or contact the new media. If NDOT succeeds in gutting transportation enhancement this time, they will continue to do it in the future.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s Fastlane blog announces a new policy that puts walking and bicycling on equal footing with motor vehicles! He uses the words “sea change,” and this certainly has the potential to be that. The policy includes:
Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
Go beyond minimum design standards.
Collect data on walking and biking trips.
Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal).
Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Of course the federal government only has some control over what the states do, even with federal money, so it will also take change at the state level that has so far never happened. I think now is the time to exert pressure on NDOT and on the state legislature to change the way things are done in Nevada. A rational transportation system that works for everyone is now a step closer, and many many more steps are needed. Literally. We have a lot of poor decisions and damage from the past that will take a long time to correct, but if we can at least head in the right direction, we are moving towards a better world.
Vicky Pritchett has volunteered to bring back the Muscle Powered sponsored road rides! Vicky plans to start off with some easy loops around Washoe Valley starting on March 7th, and then gradually build the mileage in preparation for the Chico Wildflower Century at the end of April (a fantastic ride!).
Old 395 in Washoe Valley
Here’s a look at the schedule:
3/7 @ 10:00 – Meet at Bower’s Mansion: 1-2 loops around Franktown
3/20 @ 10:00 – Meet at park in Genoa: Genoa to Cottonwoods, 20 miles
3/27 @ 10:00 – Meet at Bower’s Mansion – Loop around Washoe Lake, 24 miles
4/3 @ 10:00 – Meet at Mormon Station Park in Genoa – Genoa to Woodfords, back River Road, Approx 40 miles
4/10 @ 10:00 – Meet at Mormon Station Park in Genoa: Genoa to to Woodfords, back Diamond Valley Loop, approx 44 miles
4/17 @ 10:00 – Meet at Target: Target to Cottonwoods, Approx 40 miles
4/25 Chico Wildflower Ride in Chico, CA
Carson River Road south of Carson Valley
To participate in these rides, you must be a Muscle Powered member. Not only does membership with Muscle Powered allow you to participate in Muscle Powered exclusive events like walks and bicycle rides, memberships and donations provide the primary source of funding for Muscle Powered projects. Additionally, larger membership gives us more clout and influence in city projects. A membership form can be found HERE. Vickie should have some membership forms available at the beginning of the ride as well.