Saturday, August 04, 2007

So what does the I-35 bridge collapse mean for the future of bicycling and walking?

There is no clear answer as to where this will go, what is clear is that at least for now the 24 News outlets are finally focused on a long standing problem.

The anti-pork constituency is once again pointing to light rail and bicycle infrastructure projects as a waste of transportation funds. These groups, most notably the Heritage Foundation treats anything that is not spent on roads as pork (even though the largest chunk of SAFETEA-LU earmarks were in fact highway projects). If the drumbeats of this issue get louder by 2009 then we may once again have to go to bat to defend bicycle friendly funding sources such as Transportation Enhancements and CMAQ.

On the other hand some news sources are actually questioning highway expansion projects vs. infrastructure preservation, a large chunk of transportation dollars are still spent on new capacity projects. Since 1990 Road capacity expansion in urban areas has averaged about 15,000 lane miles per year *.

Check out this report of bridge repair underfunding issued by STPP in 2003:

...Often, states use their discretion to fully fund traditional highway building programs while under-funding critical repair needs like the bridge program. Several such states are ones that the bridge program’s funding formula is designed to help the most.

If states reallocate some of the highway capacity funds to overhauling bridges it will provide more opportunities to add pathways on bridges And a new focus on maintenance may release funds to repair our crumbling and neglected multi-use paths such as the MLK Drive path and the Schuylkill River Trail between Shawmont and the Montgomery County Line. But these improvements will be made only if the local community pushes the DOT's to do so.

But ultimately this issue may come down with the Katrina syndrome. Key symptom of this disease is a refocusing of public attention on Lindsey Lohan, Dancing with the Stars and IPODs.

*Based on a report from the Surface Transportation Policy Project that used FHWA statistics to determine that 22,000 lane miles were added to the urban roadway network every year between 1990 and 2000 and 69% of that mileage was due to on highway capacity expansion.