Recreation interests discuss SAFETEA strategies
bill will fund trails
| "We need to explore ways
that greenways and trails improve the economic well being of
states and communities, and how trails and greenways promote
better health and fitness."
On May 14, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta launched
the Administration's six-year $247 billion (yes, billion with a
"B") surface transportation reauthorization proposal.
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity
Act of 2003 (SAFETEA), continues the funding program known in recent
years as ISTEA and TEA-21.
The proposed funding retains the Transportation Enhancements program
with no new categories or transferability. It also retains other
key programs: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), Scenic
Byways, and Recreational Trails.
SAFETEA also maintains broad eligibility of bicycle and pedestrian
projects in major funding categories, and adds bicycling and pedestrian
groups to the list of interested parties able to comment on state
and MPO transportation plans. Discussion and debate over the SAFETEA
bill will be going on through 2003. When the bill will reach a final
vote is a matter of conjecture.
Visit the "News & Alerts"
area of www.AmericanTrails.org for up to date news as it happens.
The complete SAFETEA bill and a legislative analysis from the U.S.
Department of Transportation can also be downloaded. Pick SAFETEA
from the pull-down "Select a topic" menu on the home
Rec Trails sent by trail groups
Twenty-one organizations from across the spectrum of trail and
recreation interests signed a June 9, 2003 letter to key Members
of Congress in support of the Recreational Trails Program in SAFETEA:
"We are writing to express support for continuation of the
RTP program. We applaud the incorporation of RTP in the Administration's
SAFETEA bill at an increased level of funding and ask for your personal
assistance in extending and expanding this important program. "The
Federal Highway Administration estimates that off-highway recreational
activities generate $286 million annually in federal fuel taxes.
Federal motor fuel taxes were originally imposed as a user fee,
and remain largely so today.
"It is therefore appropriate to invest off-highway recreation
activity taxes primarily to improve the safety and enjoyment of
off-highway recreation. We ask that you support the return of at
least 50% of off-highway recreation-generated taxes to the RTP program
rather than the 21% level proposed in SAFETEA."
Several changes to the Recreational Trails Program were proposed
as part of SAFETEA. Some of these proposals were included by the
Federal Highway Administration to address concerns raised by state
trails programs as well as trails organizations.
One issue has been the complexity of oversight intended for typical
road improvements. According to the Administration analysis, "RTP
projects are much smaller than highway projects, and should not
be treated as if they were highway projects." The new bill
attempts to reduce this burden. Other modifications would address
the role of the state trails advisory committees, the eligibility
of training for funding, Youth Corps involvement in projects, and
the creation of a Recreational Trails Resource Center. Whether any
of the proposals will survive public debate is yet to be seen.
For more news, links, and analysis on SAFETEA, see www.AmericanTrails.org.
Pick SAFETEA from the pull-down "Select a topic" menu.
Recreation interests discuss SAFETEA
From the American Recreation Coalition Recreation
A variety of recreation interests gathered June 10 at the Department
of the Interior for an in-depth look at the reauthorization of the
nation's surface transportation programs, programs totaling nearly
$40 billion in expenditures annually from the Highway Trust Fund
(HTF). The recreation community has become a major beneficiary of
the HTF with nearly $1 billion in funding annually provided for
The briefing was moderated by AAA's Federal Programs Director Helen
Sramek and included presentations by American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials Vice President Janet Oakley,
American Highway Users Alliance Executive Vice President Greg Cohen,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy George Schoener
and Debbie Gebhardt, Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Thomas
Petri (R-WI). The session opened with a message of regret from another
invited panelist from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public
Works— a message that also included a new and tight schedule for
committee and Senate floor action on a new bill.
The panelists shared important insights on the issues and players
shaping the next surface transportation measure. Several pointed
out that core elements of the Administration's proposal— SAFETEA—
were very supportive of recreation: SAFETEA would address mobility,
access, safety and personal choice of travel modes. All agreed that
there was little interest on the Hill or among key constituent groups
to see major changes in TEA 21 but that change— or no action at
all— could result from underfunding of the legislation.
And, all but Mr. Schoener agreed that the Administration's funding
request was seriously underfunded— even as they praised its themes
and specific elements. Each warned that programs like scenic byways,
recreational trails, federal lands highways and even Wallop-Breaux
program funds to aid boating and fishing could be jeopardized by
battling among states to address donor/donee fund distribution patterns,
since even losing states are not expected to actually see apportionments
drop below current levels - and yet the Administration's bill boosts
overall spending very little. The presenters also agreed that the
recreation-focused programs of ISTEA/TEA 21 were both popular and
successful and could be expected to grow if severe funding issues
could be avoided.
One remaining unaddressed issue is the USDA Forest Service maintained
road system— some 400,000 miles in total and 65,000 of high-use
recreation roads. The price tag for addressing a chronic underfunding
of maintenance is now billions of dollars and growing. Challenges
to overcome include both the magnitude of need and the timber-sparked
controversy over roads on national forests. The consensus of the
panel was that a long-term bill would be passed by the 108th Congress
prior to the 2004 elections but that a TEA 21 "extender"
for up to one year was very, very likely.
Visit American Trails at www.AmericanTrails.org for updates on
SAFETEA, legislation affecting trails, and federal transportation
funding. Click on "News