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Senate passes TEA-3 Bill
Last night, the Senate passed S. 1072, the successor to TEA-21 by a vote of 76 to 21. Our bike stuff fared well. Existing programs such as Enhancements, Rec Trails, CMAQ, etc continue. Safe Routes to School is funded at $70 million a year.

Debate on the bill centered around the $318 billion price tag. Fiscal conservatives complained that the bill's spending was not in line with the 2004 budget, and that the funding package was laced with credits, offsets and other "funny money." But other Senators, eager to send "jobs, jobs, jobs" back to their states, overrode those objections to pass the bill. Senators also chose to overlook President Bush's theat to veto the bill which calls for $62 billion more than the President's proposal.

HIGHLIGHTS of the bill:
  • Safe Routes is funded at $70 million per year.
  • Enhancements is slated to receive $4.79 billion over the next six years, up from $3.33 billion under TEA-21.
  • Rec Trails will receive $360 million over six years, up from $270 million under TEA-21
  • A new Alternative Transportation in National Parks Program, funded at
    $25 million a year, includes bike/ped projects in the eligible activities.
  • Bicyclists and pedestrians have been added to the list of "interested parties" invited to comment on transportation plans (both TIPs and Statewide Plans).
  • funding for a bicycle and pedestrian information center is included.

    In last minute amendments, language was added to Enhancements which reads "Among the bicycle and pedestrian facility enhancement projects under consideration, the Secretary shall urge that a priority be given to those pedestrian and bicycle facility projects that include a coordinated physical or healthy lifestyle program." This language was introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) who said "possible examples of such efforts might include an exercise course on the side of a trail."

    The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider their bill H.R. 3550 "TEA-LU" the first week in March. Then the House bill will go to the full House of Representatives for a vote. Then the two bills will go to a conference committee to work out the differences.

    Given the circumstances, we are pleased with the outcome in the Senate. It's not revolutionary, but it could have been much, much worse.

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