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?