Friday, August 24, 2007

PENNDOT Diverted 1 Billion from Bridge Program but AAA Blames Bike Paths

The Bike Path blame game continues with AAA Mid-Atlantic's Catherine L. Rossi with a commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding the sorry state of Pennsylvania Bridges the most deficient in the country.

While much of the article strives for accountability and the need for user fees (tolls) Ms. Rossi couldn't help but take a jab at the old bike path scapegoat.
Quote: "Nevertheless, our federal lawmakers and policymakers have a responsibility to stop earmarking highway and bridge money for "pork" and unrelated projects such as recreational bike paths, museums and historic lighthouses."

"Pennsylvania also has a responsibility to resist the temptation to divert highway and bridge money to fund mass transit deficits..."

AAA will support reasonable increases in fees and taxes but only if the money is used wisely and exclusively for needed highway and bridge projects.

Looks like AAA got the Secretary Mary Peters Memo.

The statement that “recreational” bicycle paths are unrelated to transportation is baffling. Hundreds of bicyclists commute to the regions core from the Northwest neighborhoods and Montgomery County via the Schuylkill River Trail and from New Jersey via the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway. Both facilities cater to “recreational users” but they also accommodate those who are walking or bicycling to work, school, the store, the doctor, the train etc. and every one of these trips prevents congestion, pollution, and energy consumption while improving the health of the rider or walker.

Ms. Rossi left the impression that an enormous percentage of Federal transportation funds are spent on projects such as these. The reality is that less than one percent of these funds are spent on bicycling and walking projects despite the fact that these two modes account for about 5 percent of all trips in the region2 and 17 percent of traffic fatalities each year.1

The commentary also left the impression that critical bridge projects are being left unfunded because of this. But according to the 2003 Report How States Under-Fund Bridge Safety States have spent billions of bridge program dollars elsewhere. Pennsylvania was singled out as an extreme example of deferring bridge maintenance.

Between 1993 and 2002 Pennsylvania, with nearly 25% of its bridges deemed structurally deficient, has left unused or transferred over $1.2 billion in bridge program funding2 Indeed, states have returned to Washington hundreds of millions of “unspent” bridge program dollars as part of recent rescissions ordered by the Congress

We do not support AAA's position that all transportation dollars should default to the all-mighty car. There is a need and there are many benefits for bicycling, walking and mass transit - including economic, environmental, and health.

At a time when individuals, communities and as a nation we are battling congestion, obesity, energy consumption, global warming, and air quality issues, projects and programs to help people use alternatives to driving are a wise investment.

1 The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership – Mean Streets 2002; Pennsylvania fact sheet

2 US Census SF3 Journey to Work Data 5 County Philadelphia Region

3The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership – Bridge Spending Decoder January 2003


Anonymous said...

Kathrine L. Rossi may be reached at 302-299-4424