Tuesday, May 10, 2011

John Mica: Please Streamline the Bureaucracy While Saving Sidewalk, Bike Lane Funding

Anyone who periodically reviews my posts know I have great admiration for Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.  I am asking him to consider modifying a proposal he floated to eliminate a 10% federal funding mandate for sidewalks and bike lanes.  The Orlando Sentinel published my strong words last week:
"How many more headlines must we read of kids getting killed or critically injured walking to school, walking to a school bus or riding their bikes?" Geller said. "To shift funding away from bike lanes and sidewalks, when Florida is number one in the nation for pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, is reckless and irresponsible."
Today, for the second time in two weeks, a motorist struck a child waiting for, or walking to a school bus in Central Florida.  The child, fourth grader Anthony Moore, died.  There were no sidewalks despite numerous subdivision homes nearby. 

Minneola Shores Road in Clermont, where a motorist killed a 4th grader today waiting for a school bus.  This photo came from the Orlando Sentinel. 
The Florida Department of Transportation devotes only about $35 million to sidewalks and bike lanes out of a $7 billion budget.  We are literally talking about a drop in the bucket.  Removal of the federal mandate would jeopardize this minimal funding. 

As I told Fox35 news anchor Keith Landry, if we have no assurance the States will spend the funds where needed, we need to question whether to remove the mandate. 

I appreciate Rep. Mica's interest in streamlining the bureaucracy.  A federal bureaucrat should not require considerable brain power or time to to calculate 10% of a grant figure and to review a a one page certification that the funds were appropriated for the intended uses.   Therefore, the new Federal Transportation Bill should:

(1) streamline the review and approval process for the funds;

(2) eliminate the mandate when States reach certain benchmarks, such as a reduction in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and critical injuries; and

(3) at the very least, eliminate the mandate only for highway landscaping and beautification, and reduce the 10% figure commensurately. 

The benchmark idea comes from Professor Bruce Stephenson, director of the Master of Planning program at Rollins College.  Ironically, several proposed SunRail stations are on or near State roads.  To devote no resources to bike and pedestrian facilities in these areas makes no sense. 

Although not scientific, those who responded to an Orlando Sentinel online poll voted decidedly against removing the sidewalk and bike lane funding mandate

Poll: Should feds cut money for bike paths, sidewalks?

U.S. Rep. John Mica wants to let federal-gas-tax money designated for bike paths and sidewalks to be spent on roads instead. Should the feds cut money meant for bike paths and sidewalks?

Yes. Far more people use roads, and with our infrastructure crumbling, fixing them comes first. (16 responses)         6%

Maybe. How about only if bike lanes and sidewalks are added when roads are improved? (4 responses)    1%

No. We should encourage more people to walk and bike and get out of their cars. (259 responses)

279 total responses

(Results not scientific)