Governor Brown released his 2015-16 state budget proposal on Friday, with $15.8 billion slated for transportation infrastructure. Despite an increase of roughly $200 million over last year’s transportation budget, dedicated funding for walking and bicycling is proposed to take a cut of approximately $14 million.
The budget proposal highlights two key transportation-related priorities: addressing the maintenance needs on our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit networks, and tackling climate change through Cap and Trade expenditures in clean transportation, high-speed rail, and sustainable communities. In his inaugural address Governor Brown also expressed a vision for cutting fuel consumption by cars and trucks in half by 2030.
These priorities provide a clear opportunity for significant investment in walking and bicycling. Road maintenance funding could require that safe and adequate provision for pedestrians and cyclists be included on all maintenance projects, ensuring that we aren’t just paving over a broken system but improving our roads and reducing congestion as we fix them. Drastic reductions in fuel consumption and turning the tide of climate change will require more than electric vehicles and high-speed rail, we will also need safe and connected walk and bike networks in every community in California.
However, the Governor’s budget proposal fails to make these linkages between investing in our transportation system, commitment to environmental sustainability, and increasing funding for walking and bicycling.
The budget narrative hails the establishment of the Active Transportation Program (ATP) in 2013 and the awarding of over $350 million to ATP projects in the first funding cycle as “significant progress toward achieving multi-modal choice and better transportation system integration”, yet overall funding for the ATP is actually reduced this year. The budget proposes $124 million in state and federal funds for the ATP, or $14 million less than in 2014-15 and $5 million less than in 2013-14, when the program was established.
Despite this missed opportunity to increase the pot of dedicated walk/bike funding, active transportation is eligible for funding through three Cap and Trade programs that were established last year and for which funding is proposed to increase in 2015-16 – the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, the Transit Operations Program, and the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program. Since these programs are all still in development stages, it is still unclear whether walk and bike improvements will receive significant funding under any of them.
In response to this proposal, the National Partnership and our partners statewide are gearing up to push the Legislature and the Governor to increase funding for the ATP in the final adopted budget. The legislative budget committees will begin talks over the next several months on changes to the Governor’s proposal, and agreement on a final budget must be reached by the June deadline. Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to express support for more funding for active transportation in California.