Obama keeps promise on promoting bicycle, pedestrian projects
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks."
The administration has taken several steps to advance the the cause of cyclists and pedestrians and, in some cases, has done so in concert with Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects across the country received more than $141 million in funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (or TIGER) grant program. TIGER grants, which were created by the economic stimulus bill, are designed to boost "multimodal" projects -- those that involve more than one type of transportation -- with a preference for those located in economically distressed areas.
TIGER grants with bicycle and pedestrian components were awarded to a range of projects, including initiatives in Benton and Washington counties, Ark.; greater Oakland, Calif.; Bridgeport, Conn.; New Haven, Conn.; Peach County, Ga.; Hailey, Idaho; Peoria, Ill.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Revere, Mass; Staples, Minn.; Philadelphia, Pa./Camden, N.J.; and Burlington, Vt.
In addition, other highway and intermodal projects that received funding incorporated bicycle and pedestrian paths and accommodations into their designs, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair.
As for working with Metropolitan Planning Organizations, several such organizations are playing major roles in these projects, Alair said, including projects in Indianapolis, Philadelphia-Camden, Arkansas and, California.
Though MPOs often partner with or defer to states for the actual administration of grants, MPOs have been "heavily involved during the planning and application process" for TIGER grants, Alair said.
Federal funds today are already going toward bicycle and pedestrian projects, and some of those projects were developed in cooperation with Metropolitan Planning Organizations. We rate this a Promise Kept.
Grants for bike and pedestrian projects
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks." We can't find anything that his administration has done specifically to work with Metropolitan Planning Organizations, but top officials have done a couple of things to advance the cause of cyclists and pedestrians.
First, three federal agencies — the Transportation Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency — have begun working jointly toward creating what the administration has termed "more livable communities." These are communities that minimize traffic congestion and commuting times, which provide transportation options beyond the automobile, which keep housing and transportation costs low for residents, and which make the most efficient and cleanest use of land and other natural resources. (More on this project here .)
At the opening plenary session of the 2009 Bike Summit on March, 16, 2009, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told attendees that DOT will be "a full partner in working toward livable communities." Kevin Mills, vice president of policy for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, said in an interview that LaHood is "saying all the right things in all the right places."
Most concretely, bike and pedestrian projects receive specific encouragement in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants, which were included in the economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year.
These grants will make $1.5 billion available through Sept. 30, 2011, for transportation projects. They are to be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that are deemed to have "a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region." Among those eligible for the grants are state and local governments, transit agencies, port authorities and metropolitan planning organizations.
TIGER grants haven't built any bike paths or pedestrian trails yet, and other such projects will likely need to wait until the next major transportation reauthorization bill is passed — something considered unlikely to happen until next year.
Still, TIGER grants could eventually make bike and pedestrian projects a reality. This, combined with LaHood's rhetorical support for biking and walking, leads us to rate this promise In the Works.
Transportation Department, "HUD and DOT Partnership: Sustainable Communities" news release , March 18, 2009
Transportation Department, "DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Announce Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities" news release , June 16, 2009,
Ray LaHood, comments at the 2009 Bike Summit , March 16, 2009
Transportation Department, "DOT Information Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" web page , accessed Oct. 8, 2009
Transportation Department, notice of funding availability , June 17, 2009
ppolnews.com, "American Bicyclist Update," March 16, 2009
Interview with Kevin Mills, vice president of policy for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Oct. 8, 2009
E-mail interviews with Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair, September 2009