Guest Blogger: Michelle K.
On July 30, 2019, the US Senate passed a bipartisan bill, S2302, called America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act. The name makes me think of freeway cloverleaves and our HART rail system, but actually there are several bicycle-centric programs included in the funding that will update current bike infrastructure, as well as earmark money for some pilot programs that address our future transportation needs. I read that over the last 25 years, federal surface transportation legislation has committed around $15 billion, that’s with a “B”, in bike lanes, bike paths, trails, and other projects that make bike commuting and recreating safer and easier throughout the United States.
The popular TAP, Transportation Alternatives Program, would get $1.2 billion. This one is popular because it is a major source of federal funds for our local government agencies to tap into via grants that address concerns that are specific to Oahu bike riders and make our current funding efforts a reality.
TAP helped fund 30% of the expansion of the Biki bikeshare system in 2018. A nice overview of funded Oahu TAP projects can be found here.
The RTP, Recreation Trails Program, provides funds to develop and maintain our off-road bike trails and trailheads. The funding for this program already comes from fuel taxes, not for your car, but the “gas” you buy for your boat, jet ski, ATV, and other recreational vehicles. What’s included in this current bill is a study that looks at how those fuel taxes are collected and distributed. Results of this study could end up increasing how much money our state allocates to make these improvements in off-road infrastructure.
A third program would fund grants to local municipalities for infrastructure that is designed to make improvements to pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Things like street lighting, signage, and safety barriers in between bikeways and vehicle lanes come to mind. This one is aptly named the Safety Incentive Program and there is currently $500 million proposed in the Senate’s budget for it.
This version of the bill also includes funding for a 'Center of Excellence' that would, among other things, evaluate how docked and dockless bikeshare programs, like Biki, influence real estate values and urban design plans. Personally, when I was working with a realtor to purchase my Honolulu condo recently, proximity to a Biki station was high on my needs list. I’m interested in knowing how this translates into property values, if at all.
This bill (Safety Incentive Program) is now being discussed in the US House and will go through several committees before it reaches the President’s desk for final approval, so now is a great time to email our congresspersons and ask for their support. The following folks represent you as Oahu residents and sit on the committees that will review this bill and figure out where the funding will come from:
Senate Banking Committee: Senator Brian Schatz (https://www.schatz.senate.gov/contact)
House of Representatives Transportation Committee: Henry J.C. Aquino (repaquino@Capitol.hawaii.gov)
Michelle moved to Oahu a little over a year ago and quickly became a Biki user as she is determined to maintain her car-free lifestyle for as long as possible. This is her first blog post for Biki.