Dear Campaign Advocate,
Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a $2.5 billion rescission to state surface transportation programs. (The full rescission notice is available online.)
In such instances, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) typically issues an action alert, calling on our grassroots advocates around the country to contact their state leaders and request that core walking and bicycling programs like Transportation Enhancements (TE), Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality and the Recreational Trails Program not be disproportionately targeted for cuts, as has so often happened in the past.
This rescission, however, is different:
- States were given barely one week to respond to the rescission—over a holiday weekend, no less—rather than the more typical 30-day notice. With such a miniscule window in which to respond, we suspect that states will not be responsive to grassroots input, or even that such input would reach the relevant decision-maker in time.
- As we expect federal transportation reauthorization bills to emerge from both the U.S. House and Senate in the next couple of weeks, we prefer to reserve the strength of our grassroots for these crucial battles that could define our nation’s transportation policies and priorities for years to come.
Therefore, instead of a grassroots action alert, we are reaching out to you, community leaders and partners. Please take whatever steps you deem necessary and effective to prevent the disproportionate targeting of core active transportation programs in your state. In particular, you could reach out to your contacts in your state’s department of transportation to register your concern about potential disproportionate cuts to core trail, walking and bicycling programs, and to determine if there are any avenues to influence the decision despite the short timeline.
In the past, some state departments of transportation have responded to rescission criticisms by noting that, since such funds have not yet been obligated to actual projects, no "real" funds have been lost. This argument is disingenuous at best. The disproportionate rescission of TE funds, for example, signals that this program will have lost those funds for the obligation of future projects. Were the department to place greater priority on TE, such a large unobligated balance would not accumulate, and the state's rescission would not disproportionately target TE.
For more, see RTC’s "Funny Money" article.
P.S. Stay tuned for more from RTC on TIGER III and Community Transformation Grants.