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In support of alternative transportation



Posted on behalf of John D. Yoder <jdyoder@csi.com>

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June 18, 1998

A recent Indiana Farm Bureau press release titled, “Use Gas Taxes for
Intended Purpose” stated, “It is unfair to take these funds (Federal
Highway Trust) which have been paid by highway users and divert them to
non-highway uses, notably enhancement programs such as bicycle trails,
beautification programs and light rail.”  This was one of many voices
opposed to a continuation of the federally mandated Transportation
Enhancement program that required a portion of Federal Highway money be
spent on enhancements such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

On June 9th, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act of
the 21st Century, (TEA-21), which reauthorizes the Enhancements program
with a significant increase in funding levels.  How did this happen in
the face of such strong opposition?  Because Congress and the President
listened to other voices, the voices of the communities that have
embraced the development of alternative transportation as the right
thing to do, the voices that have used these dollars to provide bicycle
and pedestrian facilities that not only provide a safe alternative way
to travel but also improve the quality of life for local residents.

The Farm Bureau press release states, “This is not a comment on the
propriety of those particular activities, it is a comment on the
propriety of assessing highway users for alternative forms of
transportation.”  What this does not take into account is that most of
the people that promote and use these facilities are also
automobile-owners who pay state and federal gas taxes, some of which,
want alternatives.

The above comment also does not take into account increased citizen
demand for bicycling and pedestrian opportunities.  A recent Lake
Research poll of registered voters showed that 64% support using federal
transportation dollars to build bicycle trails, bike lanes and
sidewalks.  A 1995 nationwide poll commissioned by Rodale Press
demonstrated that a “solid majority (56%) of adults would like their
local governments to devote more funds for [safe and secure pedestrian
and bike] pathways in their areas.” Communities benefit so much from
these transportation enhancement projects that local governments come up
with more money than required for the ISTEA 20% matching funds.

In nearly 50 communities across the state of Indiana the investment are
being made in bicycle and pedestrian as well as other enhancements.  Two
examples, the Lafayette Depot Plaza and Main Street Bridge, and the
Downtown Corridor Improvement Project in Indianapolis were highlighted
in 1996 as two of,  “25 of America’s Best Enhancement Projects.” 
Communities across Indiana; Portage, Zionsville, Indianapolis, Terra
Haute, Muncie, Evansville and many more; are or have developed bicycle
and pedestrian facilities using Transportation Enhancement Funds.  These
efforts are realizing the goals of providing safe alternative
transportation routes within these communities while greatly enhancing
the quality of life for local residents.

TEA-21 will provide Indiana 90% return of the federal gas taxes paid by
state residents, an increase from 78% under the old Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), with a substantial increase in
set-aside dollars for the Enhancements.  Congress and the President
listened to the voices of the people, the voices that clearly said that
spending federal gas taxes for Enhancements, “Use Gas Taxes for Intended
Purpose.”

Rory Robinson; Indiana Projects Director; National Park Service; Rivers,
Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, 4570 Akron-Peninsula Road,
Peninsula, OH 44264. Phone (330) 657-2950 or e-mail
rory_robinson@nps.gov.