This week Governor Scott Walker and a new legislature were sworn in to office to start a fresh two-year term.
We wasted no time in sending a letter to the governor asking him to increase funding for bike and pedestrian programs. Specifically, we asked that funding be increased to two percent of the state transportation budget. That’s up from about 1.2% in the current budget.
This is part of our campaign for: “Two wheels. Two feet. Two percent.”
We also asked the governor to follow the recommendations of his own Transportation Finance & Policy Commission, which recommended a new $20 million program to help finance the construction of local safe biking infrastructure in cities, villages and towns all over the state. The program would require a local match, so that it would leverage another $20 million in project support.
The governor is expected to introduce his budget in early February. It will then be referred to the Joint Finance Committee, which will hold hearings on it throughout the spring. Joint Finance usually starts working on the budget in earnest in April and May. The budget is scheduled to pass both houses by about July 1st. Then the governor can sign it, veto it, or veto it in part. The whole process should be done by about August 1st.
You can help by contacting the governor and simply asking him to include the Bike Fed proposals in the budget he introduces next month. You can write Governor Walker here.
The full text of our letter is reprinted below.
Here is how Wisconsin compares to some other states on their budget support for bicycling and walking:
We could justify a much higher percentage. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, nine percent of all Wisconsin trips are made by walking or bicycling and studies show that as many as five percent of commuters in Wisconsin bicycle to work during peak months.
Yet, according to the 2012 Benchmarking Report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Wisconsin ranked 42nd in per capita investments in infrastructure for these modes of travel. Right now Wisconsin spends just under $40 million or about 1.2% on bicycling and walking infrastructure and education. That’s out of a total annual transportation budget of $3.3 billion. So we’re asking that that number increase to about $66 million.
This could be achieved by simply using more Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) dollars for bike and pedestrian projects that instead now go for other purposes.
We understand that the state is at a crossroads regarding future funding for transportation projects, including bicycling. I served on the Transportation Finance & Policy Commission and voted for its recommendations. These included, on a bipartisan unanimous vote, a recommendation of $10 million annually ($20 million over the biennium) for bicycling infrastructure projects. The exact language from pages 83-84 of the Commission’s report is as follows:
“THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS an increase of $10 million annually
for creation of a state-funded bicycle and pedestrian program, a competitive local program to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects.
“Under the Commission’s recommendation, new bicycle and pedestrian accommodations would continue to be implemented as part of state and local highway projects, increasing the percentage of state and local highways that accommodate bicycles. Currently, 64.8 percent of state highways and 91.5 percent of local highways accommodate bicycles.
“Projects eligible for funding in the proposed new Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility program would add pavement width, acquire real estate, sign, mark, and otherwise improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Local governments would be responsible for 50 percent of costs as well as maintenance of the improved facilities.”
Because of the local match requirement this new program would actually leverage a $40 million investment in new infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians over the biennium.
We know that more people will bike and walk if they feel safe. A recent study showed that six out of ten people are interested in doing more biking but are concerned for their safety. So, we believe that safe infrastructure is the key to getting more people biking and walking, with ripple effect benefits in public health, jobs, air quality and in many other ways.
In addition, there is a benefit for motorists as separated facilities for biking and walking will lessen conflicts between motorists and cyclists and pedestrians.
And of course these kinds of investments will help create even more private sector jobs in the bicycle industry and related industries such as tourism.
So, as you consider the budget we ask you to include the Transportation Finance & Policy Commission’s recommendation regarding bicycle infrastructure and that you propose an overall transportation budget that includes two percent for bike and pedestrian programs.
Thanks so much for your consideration.
Wisconsin Bike Fed