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Senate committee approves bill benefitting bicycling infrastructure

Published May 26, 2021

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works further discussed and amended a transportation bill Wednesday morning that would make it easier for local governments to build bike lanes, sidewalks, and trails.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 was tweaked slightly before it was approved by the committee, which is responsible for the road and highway section of the bill. In total, the bill would allocate $303.5 billion for Department of Transportation programs to support highways, roads and bridges.

It now goes to further review in other committees before the Senate floor.

"This bipartisan bill supports bicycling and walking as an integral part of our transportation system, and recognizes the need to fix our existing streets while ensuring new streets are built for everyone," said Caron Whitaker, deputy executive director of the League for American Bicyclists.

If the bill becomes law, it will increase infrastructure funding that would benefit bicyclists and pedestrians, including funding Transportation Alternatives $7.2 billion over five years. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, which ended in 2020 before being extended a year, allocated $4.2 billion over five years. The Reauthorization Act also reserves about $1.6 billion in funding for vulnerable road user safety (bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians). The bill includes other infrastructure improvements and incentives.

The amendment, proposed by Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.) on Wednesday, added a grant program to fund communities that build biking and walking networks. The idea is to provide incentives to build these networks, which also would benefit mobility users of wheelchairs and scooters.

The Reauthorization Act "makes a critical investment in safe streets for everyone," said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. "The bill's proposed changes to the Transportation Alternatives program will make it easier for local governments to build bike lanes, sidewalks, and trails, plus new language on the safety of vulnerable road users puts a desperately needed focus on reducing fatalities and serious injuries among people biking, walking, and using wheelchairs."

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