Sunday, December 16, 2007

PENNDOT's Money Fight, Is Transportation Funding Good or Bad for Bicycling

Local opposition and FHWA rejection of the first proposal for tolling I-80 has put Act 44 into jeopardy. Act 44 will provide funding for mass transit and critical maintenance and rehabilitation projects for roads and deficient bridges.

DVRPC has drafted a document that looks at how to fund transportation needs locally and how much bang for the buck each option would offer. Options include local gas taxes, raising tobacco and alcohol taxes, tolling roads, parking taxes, real estate transfer taxes etc. The goal would be to fully fund the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) which is the regional priority list of transportation projects.

But would this funding benefit bicyclists and pedestrians? Yes and No, funding the TIP could speed the design and construction of important trail projects, and many projects do include sidewalk installation and shoulders. But road widenings often increase speeds, create difficult intersections, gobble up greenspace and sometimes create barriers to bicycling and walking, such as PENNDOT severing an abandoned rail line crossing Route 309 in Springfield Township.

Instead of making the pie higher, how about a shift in spending priorities. How much money would we save if we considered the regional road network complete and focused entirely on safety, complete streets and good maintenance. Since the bicycle and pedestrian network is far from complete why not triple the funding from 1-2% to 5%, the rest of the savings would go to shore up our regional transit network.