Making a little sense of the Stimulus Bill – Your comments needed

Everyone seems to be trying to figure out what President Obama’s stimulus bill will bring to their area. It’s seemed to have created a mad scramble of agencies and organizations vying for their piece of the pie and arguing that they have the “most important” and the most “shovel ready” project out there. Even the high caliber regional leaders at last night’s Stimulus Salon Discussion admittedly didn’t know much about it.

Bicycling, transit and smart transportation advocates are part of this conversation as well, and have either been trying to sweep up the crumbs wherever we can or have been trying to steer the conversation, and money into larger “visionary” projects. An analysis done by the US Public Interest Research Group found that just 0.3% of the state lists of projects were for bike/ped infrastructure. Given that bike and ped specific projects are underrepresented, it seems like a great time to call for a Complete Streets policy on the remaining road projects where users also include cyclists and pedestrians, in addition to automobiles.

Important

The national advocacy organization, America Bikes, created an action alert to get cycling advocates to contact their local politicians, from mayors to governors, to make sure that cycling and walking infrastructure is included in these projects. The action alert comes complete with a sample letter, so please send a letter.

Very Important

Seemingly a bit further along in the process, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), our regional planning organization that controls vast sums of money (including dispersing a chunk of the stimulus money), has released potential “shovel ready” projects, many of which will come to life as part of the stimulus package. These could begin construction as early as Spring/Summer 2009.

There is a necessary public comment period in order to add these projects to the current list of projects, known as the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP. This is another chance to add our voice to the mix and demand that bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure is not only included on it’s own, but also included in road projects intended for all users.

The list of potential projects includes (all pdfs) Highway and Bridge projects, Transit Capital Improvements, and the mother lode projects expected to cost $10 Million or more. According to SPC, “there is no assurance that any individual project on the list will receive federal funds; only that these projects will be eligible to receive federal funds under the [stimulus package].”

Please take a moment to check out these projects and submit your comments. If you’re so inclined, include language about cycling and walking and Complete Streets. It would be a shame to have a road project completed, and cyclists and pedestrians were yet again excluded from the design.

There are several City of Pittsburgh projects that do include improvements for cyclists and pedestrians, so it’s equally, if not more important that you contact them to express your support of these initiatives.

Here is a list of projects that specifically mention cycling and walking

  • Extend recreational trail and pedestrian access along Allegheny River: $2M
  • Replacement of old Ellsworth Ave bridge with pedestrian only bridge: $736,364
  • Replace existing Trail bridge and widen Bates Street to improve intersection: $735,014
  • Pedestrian, infrastructure and traffic improvements to 
    Sandusky and Anderson Sts under the NSRFF Overpass: $1.1 M
  • Negley Pedestrian Bridge: $2M

There are also meetings that you can attend on Friday, February 27 and Monday March 9 to add your voice. Meeting info here.

Written comments may be submitted through 4:00 p.m. on March 27, 2009 to:

Comments
425 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2500
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1852
Fax to: Comments at 412-391-9160
E-mail: comments@spcregion.org

So there you have it…do your homework.

President Obama has also launched a website, Recovery.gov to help track the progress and transparency of the stimulus money. He and VP Biden have vowed to “make famous” any politician or agency that abuses this money. Let’s hope Pittsburgh doesn’t get famous, at least not for this.

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