A proposal by U.S. Senator Pat Toomey to eliminate funding for crosswalks, bike paths and safety routes to save money for road and bridge repairs has local advocates concerned that corners will be cut – literally.
Steve Doster of Pennsylvania Mission Readiness said the people who enjoy paths such as the Capital Area Greenbelt may not be able to without the federal funding from the Transportation Alternatives Program. He said 12 percent of all Pennsylvania commuters are powered by cardio.
“In my mind, that makes walking and bicycling a legitimate form of transportation,” Doster said.
Doster and others around Harrisburg are scratching their heads over Toomey’s proposal to eliminate TAP funding. Congress is scrambling to extend MAP-21 and the Highway Trust Fund as well as pass a new Federal Transportation Bill.
The funding is set to expire this fall and experts believe money could run dry by December.
Toomey wants to reserve federal funding for national infrastructure and says that the money should be spent on roads and bridges.
TAP funding accounts for two percent of the annual federal spending budget; $802 million a year. The program fuels projects such as crosswalk installation, pedestrian and bicycle paths, environmental preservation projects, and safe routes to school.
Pennsylvania’s annual slice is roughly $25 million.
Doster says TAP funding helps to save lives. Nearly 5,000 bicycle and 1,300 pedestrian crashes in 2012 were in crosswalks.
He said those numbers could get worse.
“We’re really talking about making or building environments that are safer and more accessible for seniors to walk to the drug store or kids to walk and bicycle to work,” he said.
Doster also views Toomey’s proposal as a mark against public health and the environment. He said medical research shows obesity is on the rise, and safe biking and walking could help promote a healthier lifestyle.
He also argues the 12 percent of walkers and bicyclists only aim to improve the carbon footprint.
In the past, dozens of advocacy groups and medical organizations lobbied for additional funding for such programs.
Toomey’s office declined to comment for this story. The senator is scheduled to be in Harrisburg on Monday.
ABC27 will seek to ask Toomey if he supports a proposal by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to raise the nation’s gas tax 12 cents, another key issue of the Federal Transportation Bill.
Doster said repairing roads and bridges should have the same weight as providing safe transportation for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Everyone deserves to be safe,” he said. “That solution be comprehensive and include all modes.”