Pennsylvania Groups Halfway to Big State Multimodal Funding
Jun 20, 2013
By Lucy Wang, Communications Intern
Big wheels are turning for transportation funding in Pennsylvania. With the passage of Senate Bill No. 1 earlier this month, the Quaker State is just a House vote away from passing a new $2.5 billion state transportation bill. If successful, the bill would provide much needed dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects.
As the state with the nation’s highest number of deficient bridges, Pennsylvania would be served well by the passage of this transportation bill, which would not only mark the first meaningful transportation program since 1997.
TRIP, the national transportation research group, reports that the state’s underperforming roadways and bridges rack up costs of $9.4 billion a year due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.
SB 1, which successfully passed the Pennsylvania Senate June 5 with overwhelming bipartisan support, now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives. Though Governor Tom Corbett has indicated support, the bill will face more opposition in the House, according to Sarah Stuart, Policy Director for Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
“We think that what we’ve achieved is very, very significant,” says Stuart. “It’s really for the first time ever that the state of Pennsylvania is putting some of its own money on the table for biking & walking. It’s exciting, but we’re only halfway there.”
The Bicycle Coalition and PA Walks and Bikes has been at the frontlines of this statewide transportation bill, particularly with advocating for dedicated bicycling and pedestrian funding. The Alliance for Biking and Walking has been tracking the Coalition’s efforts, starting with the Coalition’s Rapid Response Grant to the unveiling of the comprehensive transportation fund that would include dedicated biking and walking funding.
Thanks to the Bicycle Coalition and PA Walks and Bike’s efforts, the Senate bill allocates a minimum of $ 2 million of dedicated funding a year for bicycling and walking, with the potential for much more in a shared multi-modal fund. Stuart notes that solidifying biking and walking as an integral part of the transportation mix was just as important as securing dedicated funding.
However, the House needs to pass the same bill. “We are keeping our eye on one thing,” says Stuart. “We need to make sure that the multi modal fund stays in the House bill at the same funding level as the Senate’s.”
The key to their success thus far, Stuart reveals, lay in joining other transportation stakeholders in the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition.
“We joined a diverse coalition of many transportation stakeholders and said, we’re here at the table to advocate for a comprehensive transportation bill and we’ll be your green partner. The coalition includes the asphalt pavers, the engineers, the bridge people, everybody,” said Stuart. “Working in partnership with them made a huge difference.”
Stuart recommends that other advocates support larger efforts in order to build partnerships for success. “Working with the Keystone Funding Coalition led us to create a close relationship with Mission Readiness and with the American Heart Association who have made active transportation at the state level a priority,” she recalls. “We hitched our bill to a larger effort, and so far, that partnership has been successful.”
Nevertheless, PA House members need to hear from their constituents that the House bill must maintain the multi-modal program and provide dedicated funding to biking and walking. Pennsylvania residents can send a message to their state legislatures to ask for their support for the bill here.