WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan Senate transportation bill amendment introduced by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran would shift control of bicycle & pedestrian funding from state DOTs to local governments.
In Oklahoma, the way the bill is currently written, bike-ped funding would be directed toward the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT). Because the money is not required to be spent on bicycle & pedestrian related projects, ODOT would likely direct the funding to their core competency, which is building highways.
Sen. James Inhofe speaks at November hearing on transportation reauthorization bill. (photo: U.S. Senate webcast)
In November, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe declared all bike-ped funding in Oklahoma would be diverted to “unfunded mandates.”
The Cardin-Cochran amendment, however, would take a portion of “Additional Activities” funds – the funds eligible for biking and walking projects – out of ODOT’s hands and give it to local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) such as the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG). INCOG is a voluntary association of local and tribal governments in the Tulsa metropolitan area that provides a variety of services, including transportation planning.
As Streetsblog points out, the amendment would not restore dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, but it would give local governments the opportunity to prove Inhofe wrong when he said Oklahoma would prefer to not spend any money on biking and walking.
Caron Whitaker of America Bikes says that many places in Inhofe’s home state would invest in safer streets, if given the resources. “Let’s see what Oklahoma City wants to do,” she said. “Let’s see what Tulsa wants to do. Both of them have invested significantly in biking and walking.”
According to America Bikes, if local mayors and governments do not request the funds for biking and walking or other “Additional Activities”, states can then direct those funds to other purposes, like highways or “unfunded mandates.”