When we interviewed U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election he said, “If four years from now the places that can make the most advantage of transportation investments don’t get that help, that’s going to be not just a missed opportunity in terms of safety and economic benefits of transportation — it’s going to be a lost political opportunity as well.”
Yesterday, just four months before that four-year deadline, Rep. Blumenauer and his colleagues in the House of Representatives (led by fellow Oregon congressman Peter DeFazio) seized that political opportunity and successfully passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act.
The bill invests $1.5 trillion in infrastructure projects and programs including $500 billion for transportation-related needs. The League of American Bicyclists has heaped praise on the legislation, saying, “This bill is transformative – it’s the first bill to approach real reform in almost 30 years… and will move the country forward in building a safer, cleaner, more equitable transportation system that better meets the needs of everyone.”
Among the highlights are several of Blumenauer’s top priorities that he’s been pushing for years including a stronger tax benefit for people who ride a bicycle to work, a policy tweak that would allow transit agencies to invest in bikeshare systems, and funding for Vision Zero plans. Blumenauer introduced a total of nine bills that were included in the Moving Forward Act and five of them are related to transportation:
Bikeshare Transit Act of 2019 (H.R. 4001): Adds bikeshare as an eligible expense for transit and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) projects.
Vision Zero Act of 2019 (H.R. 4819): Provides federal funding for cities and states to establish and implement Vision Zero plans within the Surface Transportation Block Grant, Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, and Highway Safety Improvement Programs.
PLACE Act (H.R. 2542): Establishes a national clearinghouse to research the secondary impacts of autonomous vehicles on land use, urban design, transportation, real estate, accessibility, municipal budgets, social equity, and the environment.
Road User Charge Advancement Act of 2020 (H.R. 5449): Increases funding for state road user charge pilot programs to $35 million by 2025.
Bicycle Commuter Act of 2019 (H.R. 1507): Reinstates the bicycle commuter tax benefit, increases the value of the benefit, allows the benefit to be used with parking and transit benefits, and expands the benefit to include bikeshare and electric bikes.
A beefed-up Bicycle Commuter Act will replace the old one that was repealed by the Trump Administration in 2017. The new version is much-improved and will now cover bikeshare memberships, provide nearly three times the payout (on average, based on 20% of parking benefit instead of a flat $20), and can be used toward the purchase of an e-bike (see graphic at right).
While there’s reason to celebrate the bill getting this far, its chances in a Republican-led Senate are slim. Representative Sam Graves (R-Missouri), the top Republican on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee put out a statement yesterday saying the Moving Forward Act “won’t get signed into law and won’t do anything for our infrastructure.” The bill is nothing more than an effort to “appease the Majority’s most liberal Members by turning our transportation system upside down with unworkable Green New Deal requirements,” Graves said.
While this legislation moves forward on Capitol Hill, Blumenauer wants to talk to Portland-area cycling and transportation reform advocates. He’s scheduled an invite-only roundtable for next Friday, “To discuss the role of active transportation as we consider opportunities to improve our transportation system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
(Below: Moving Forward Act Fact Sheet published by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee)
Fact sheet HR 2 Moving Forward Act FINAL
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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