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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not an Onion story

Here is another story that sounds as if it comes from The Onion. Apparently, Secretary of Transportation LaHood thinks that the Department of Transportation should also be the Department of Walking and Biking.
LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling _ and walking, too _ the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy last month.

"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.
So why should the federal government be responsible for projects for bicycles and walking? When did that become one of the federal government's responsibilities?

Well, it's all about the environment, of course.
The new policy is an extension of the Obama administration's livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving _ buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking _ as central to solving the nation's transportation woes.

LaHood's blog was accompanied by a DOT policy statement urging states and transportation agencies to treat "walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes." It recommends, among other things, including biking and walking lanes on bridges and clearing snow from bike paths.
Cyclists around the country are pumped about this. And congressmen who like bringing back pork barrel spending to their districts will like bragging about the bike paths they got the federal taxpayers to fund. But the idea that biking and walking are modes of transportation that are the responsibilities of the federal government is just ludicrous.
The new policy is not a regulation and, therefore, not mandatory, Transportation undersecretary for policy Roy Kienitz responded to LaTourette.

But it's LaHood's view "that the federal government should not take the position that roads and trains are real transportation and walking and biking is not," Kienitz said. "His view is it's all real transportation, and we should consider it based on what benefits it can bring for the amount of money we spend."
LaHood likes to bike in his spare time. Fine. But he should get clear on what the true duties of the Department of Transportation are. Using money that comes from a tax on gasoline to pay for bike paths is not an appropriate expenditure of federal dollars. If a community wants that bike path, they can pay for it themselves. There is no interstate commerce involved and so the federal government should stay out of it. I know that recently, there was a federally funded bike path in my community and that really irritated me. LaHood can talk all he wants about the benefits of cycling, but he should not be using his government position to stretch the Department of Transportation's responsibilities. And all those congressmen who are so proud of getting federal money for bike paths in their districts should just be ashamed of themselves.

Is there anything that is not considered a federal responsibility these days?


Ken Ashford said...

Interstate commerce?

Apparently you don't understand that the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate roads used by the postal service, which in this day and age means virtually all roads (as well as air, train, and sea). And if you think bicycles and walkers have no effect automobile travel on roads, you don't get out much.

Tah said...

When the State of New York built the Cross Bronx expressway they took a neighborhood which relied on people walking to the local stores and to work, and killed it. It was no longer a neighborhood where you could walk but you had to drive you had to get a car to drive to the store or to work because of the scar that the Cross Bronx became.

I would hope that any transportation project would first do no harm. So that one does not have to own a car to be a member of society.

Have you ever tried to walk to meet all your needs, too many transportation project have been designed to serve car at the cost of Bicycling and walking.

Jim said...

Actually Ken, all that the Constitution says is that Congress can establish post roads. It says nothing about Congress being able to regulate those roads, or things that use those roads, or other things that things that use those roads can use instead of those roads.

Pat Patterson said...

Congress does not have the power to regulate roads but the Postal Clause gives Congress the power to designate postal roads and postal sites. In other words Congress could designate a road for use also as a postal route but only recently has the Postal Service even been given the power to use eminent domain to build postal facilities. And several recent SCOTUS decisions have even taken the power to ban certain type of mail from being delivered away from the USPS.

These gas taxes, also collected by the states, were sold to the public as a source of funding for building and maintaining both the interstate and intrastate highway systems. Most of the rail ways had been built using small subsidies but mainly generous grants of land along the right-of-way. In other words private investment with often the muscle of state or federal power to get certain routes approved.

Bike paths are very nice, I use the one near my home daily, but to claim it has an equal right to funding when the bulk of that money is coming from gasoline taxes is nonsense. In fact much of the bike path was the result of Standard Oil of California ceding the property to the city and providing the manpower to get it built.

equitus said...

Where do I go to apply for my federal walking license? I'm sure my shoes will fall under federal regulations soon too.

Really, these people are power mad - that's all there is to it. Does LaHood bike to work? How many of our congressmen bike or walk to their jobs?

davod said...

"Where do I go to apply for my federal walking license?"

Along the same lines, the FEDS are looking at controlling shoreline fishing. You will need a license to throw a fising line in the water.