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American Trails letter to Mary E. Peters, Secretary of Transportation

A letter from the American Trails board to USDOT Secretary Mary Peters in response to her remarks on trails during an interview on transportation funding.

By Robert Searns

"By providing safe places for walkers and bicyclists to enjoy nature, trails are a vital part of the safety picture."

September 7, 2007

The Honorable Mary E. Peters
Secretary of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Peters:

I am writing on behalf of our Board and membership to encourage your continued support of alternative transportation and trails. Our organization has been most pleased by your past endorsement of non-motorized transportation, such as hiking and bicycling, recognizing that they are important components of our national transportation infrastructure— and an integral component of Department of Transportation policy. We at American Trails hope that recent interviews and articles we have seen do not represent a departure from this position with respect to priorities for transportation needs of Americans.

I am currently the Chair of American Trails, the national coalition of trail users and organizations, to whom you addressed through a 7-minute video presentation at the National Trails Symposium in Austin, Texas in 2004. We were elated when you said, "...we are proud to have made pedestrian safety one of the Federal Highway Administration's key missions. By providing safe places for walkers and bicyclists to enjoy nature, trails are a vital part of the safety picture. The Federal Highway Administration shares your dedication to the preservation of historic trailsÉ The Federal Highway Administration provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually for transportation improvements serving recreational interests through programs like the Federal Lands Highway, Recreational Trails, Transportation Enhancements and National Scenic Byways Programs." Our membership was also pleased to hear you say that "Transportation Enhancement Activities promote non-motorized transportation and scenic and historic qualities within communities."

At the present time, only about 1% of federal transportation funding is being used to support bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects even though studies like the 2001 National Household Travel Survey suggest that walkers and bicyclists make 9.5% of travel trips. With the rising cost of gasoline, many Americans are finding alternative multimodal means to travel, especially in and near their communities, to work, to shop, and to learn at school. The Safe Routes to School program funded as part of SAFETEA-LU holds real promise to get more children walking and bicycling safely, and to change the habits of an entire generation. We thank you for supporting this program!

We believe that some twenty years ago, sound and open debate, including the weighing of different transportation alternatives and priorities helped form the highly successful Enhancements funding efforts of the current SAFETEA-LU program. Multimodal transportation including recreational transportation trails is and has been recognized by the public, by Congress and by you as an important part of addressing our transportation needs, and we appreciate that. We hope that is still the case.

In your 2004 National Trails Symposium address you said that "the trail organizations have done excellent work. We can't be more happy to be partnering with them. The Federal Highway Administration supports your efforts." We could not agree more and we urge you to continue to support funding for alternative transportation including bicycle and pedestrian facilities including walking and trails and, of course, recreational trails. When debate continues over funding, we offer the services of our Board and Membership to help in any way with that discourse.

Thank you for your consideration.

Robert Searns, Chair

American Trails


Index of articles on federal funding programs

Supporting trails and greenways

Interview with USDOT Secretary Mary Peters

Letter from American Trails to Secretary Peters

SecretaryPeters' remarks at 2004 Trails Symposium

Sen. Coburn's proposal to redirect federal bike funds

Rep. McHenry opposing bicycling and trails funding


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