Push for Transportation Bill Stalls in House; Current Law Extended

March has been quite a month for Congressional action on the transportation bill. Unfortunately, it is looking like the momentum will have a tough time carrying over into April.

Just two weeks ago, on March 14, the Senate passed MAP-21, its transportation bill. We’ve talked several times on this website about the provisions in MAP-21 and the improvements for bicycling and walking made by the Cardin-Cochran amendment; rather than repeat it again here, please check out our summary of MAP-21.

The League of American Bicyclists also hosted the 2012 National Bike Summit last week. On March 22, several hundred advocates for safe bicycling and walking descended on Capitol Hill. Armed with facts, figures and stories, these advocates thanked Senators for passing MAP-21, and asked Representatives to restore funding for bicycling and walking when the House takes up its transportation bill.

Regrettably, that positive progress ground to a halt this week. To have a transportation reauthorization signed into law, the House still has to act. The House has tried several times to bring up its transportation bill, HR7, and has been unable to muster enough votes to pass it. [You may recall that HR7 repeals Safe Routes to School and eliminates funding for Transportation Enhancements.]

House and Senate Democrats pushed House Republicans to simply take up and pass MAP-21 this week to bring an end to the 2.5 years of delays in reauthorizing transportation law. House leadership resisted the pressure and instead passed a 90-day extension, after several false starts. Faced with letting transportation spending expire, the Senate agreed. Now, transportation spending (including Safe Routes to School) is extended until June 30, 2012.

So, what happens next?  Congress now has three more months to keep wrangling over the transportation bill. Democrats will push the House to pass MAP-21. And House leadership will keep working to secure the votes needed to bring HR7 to the floor. If that happens, we have Reps. Petri (R-WI), Johnson (R-IL), LaTourette (R-OH), Blumenauer (D-OR), Lipinkski (D-IL) and Johnson (D-TX) prepared to offer an amendment to restore funding for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements.

We can use this time to sway votes to our cause as well. Along with other DC lobbyists, I will be meeting with House offices to demonstrate why Safe Routes to School is important and to urge them to either pass MAP-21 or to vote for the Petri-Blumenauer amendment.

And, you can do your part too. The House is now in recess for the first two weeks in April, so Representatives are at home. Request a meeting with your Representative while they are home to tell them why Safe Routes to School matters to you. Or invite them to a Safe Routes to School event in May. And ask them to vote to restore funding for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements!