Safe Streets Coalition: How About a Stimulus for Bike/Ped Projects?

4_15_09.jpgThe National Safe Routes to Schools Partnership wants stimuls funds for the Arroyo Seco Greenway. Image: La Cita Vida/Flickr

As part of its share of the federal stimulus package, Caltrans was allocated $28 million for "Transportation Enhancements," a federal funding category that is home to bicycle, pedestrian, beautification and other road projects that aren’t widening or fix-it projects.  However, according to the National Safe Routes to Schools Partnership, Caltrans is having trouble spending those funds.  From a letter from the partnership to Caltrans:

Earlier this week, Caltrans Headquarters staff communicated to me
that they had only been able to identify 30-35 percent of the state’s $28
million in TE funds for construction by the CCC, and only one bicycle project
in the entire state. We know that there are many more bicycle and pedestrian
projects that meet the ABX3 20 TE requirements.

One bikeway project in the entire state?  Jeesh.  Fortunately, the Partnership is fully capable of doing its own outreach and analysis.  After talking to governments around the state, the Partnership created it’s own list of worthy "TE" projects which can be found exclusively here.  Among those projects the Partnership would look to see funded are the first phase of the Arroyo Seco Greenway and trail imrpovements for the Los Cerito Wetlands.

The full letter from the Partnership to Caltrans can be found after the jump.

April 10, 2009

Mr. Will Kempton, Director ;California
Department of Transportation

Re:ARRATransportationEnhancementsfundsandABX320Priorities

Dear Mr. Kempton:

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership,
based in California, is pleased that the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) includes $77 million in
Transportation Enhancements (TE) funds for California. The resulting projects will help
to enhance the livability of communities throughout California while also creating jobs.

As you know, the state legislation to implement
the recovery act, ABX3 20, established a hierarchy for TE projects such that
projects that can be constructed by the California Conservation Core (CCC) or
their affiliates should be funded first, followed by bicycle/pedestrian
projects. We understand Caltrans has $28 million to program for TE projects on
the state highway system and that the remainder of the TE funds will be
programmed by metropolitan planning organizations and regional transportation
planning organizations, but all TE ARRA funds are subject to the new criteria
in ABX3 20.

Earlier this week, Caltrans Headquarters staff communicated to me
that they had only been able to identify 30-35 percent of the state’s $28
million in TE funds for construction by the CCC, and only one bicycle project
in the entire state. We know that there are many more bicycle and pedestrian
projects that meet the ABX3 20 TE requirements.

The Partnership conducted outreach to cities,
counties and advocates throughout the state to identify potential bicycle and
pedestrian projects on the state highway system that are eligible for TE
funding. Attached is a list of these candidate projects, which includes 25
bicycle and pedestrian projects totaling more than $56 million. Our
instructions were for project sponsors to identify projects that are
ready-to-go, on the state highway system, so that funds could be obligated
quickly, and projects constructed by Caltrans in the near term.

In light of these findings, we urge Caltrans to take the following
actions:

1)   Outreach: Have Headquarters contact the 12
Districts with a sample letter to send to every Congestion Management Agency,
city, and county with a request to identify ready-to-go TE projects on the
state highway system that that could be built by the CCC or are
bicycle/pedestrian projects.

2)   Ensure Regional Compliance: Have
Headquarters Local Assistance contact the RTPAs/MPOs and advise them to comply
with the ABX3 20 hierarchy for TE project selection, and follow up by reviewing
eligibility to ensure that the regional share of TE is being programmed in
compliance with the law, and that the regions meet the obligation date
deadlines.

2)   Obligate
50 percent by June
: Obligate only 50 percent of the TE money by the
June 2009 deadline so that there is enough time to meet the state-legislated
priorities for TE while also ensuring that California doesn’t lose any of the $77M in
TE funding.

3)   Accountability:
Create a process that is transparent and accountable for both the state and
regional shares of the TE funds. There should be an opportunity for wide public
input to truly incorporate the needs and priorities of California’s communities. Please post
all information on the state’s recovery website, including whether a
funded project involved the CCC or was a bicycle/pedestrian project.

In addition to creating construction jobs in the
near-term, completed bicycle and pedestrian projects will provide opportunities
for people to walk and bicycle to shops and other destinations, thereby helping
to create a vibrant local economy and thriving livable communities.

I look forward to working with you to ensure accountability and
transparency for programming the TE ARRA funds. As always, I’m pleased to
have the opportunity to work with you to improve mobility and safety for
bicyclists and pedestrians within the great state of California.

Please let me know how Caltrans intends to proceed to identify and
program projects for the TE portion of ARRA funding. If there is anything I can
do to assist Caltrans in this process, please do not hesitate to call on me. I
look forward to your response.

Best regards,

Deb Hubsmith

Safe Routes to School National Partnership

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