Last month, Congress passed the Federal Transportation Act of 2012.

The legislation was touted as a “jobs bill” because it includes funding for transportation infrastructure projects.

The bill, however, cut funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects by 33 percent nationally, reversing years of progress on biking and walking policy.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is especially distressed by these cuts because they come at a time when the public’s demand for biking and walking projects is increasing.

A survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International shows that the vast majority of Americans want federal funding for biking and walking. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed supported maintaining or growing federal funding for sidewalks, bikeways and bike paths.

Indeed, it is worth noting the bill was passed the day after the opening of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Portland, which now includes a 12-foot-wide walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This spring, 92 communities across the state applied for the Maine Department of Transportation’s Quality Community Grants to fund projects to improve transportation and safety. Typical projects include sidewalks, crossing improvements, multi-use paths and bike lanes. These requests totaled $45 million; $7 million was available.

These federal cuts mean even less money to meet the communities’ needs.

With demand for bike/pedestrian-friendly projects clearly growing in Maine and around the country, this significant cut in federal funding is especially disappointing.

The coalition is concerned that Maine’s strong tradition of commitment to bicycling and walking is threatened.

This federal transportation bill is a wake-up call that a great deal of work must be done to convince legislators that the American public wants more alternative transportation options — not less.

Larry Rubinstein, chairman

Board of directors Bicycle Coalition of Maine

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