Beacon Hill Update

Mayor Lisa Wong at the Bike/Walk Summit

Mayor Lisa Wong at the Bike/Walk Summit

On Thursday, April 11th, 50 bicycle and pedestrian advocates joined MassBike and WalkBoston for the Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit. We heard Wendy Landman of WalkBoston, David Watson of MassBike, and Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong discuss why encouraging biking and walking in our communities is such a pressing issue. And, most importantly, local advocates met with their legislators and their staff members to urge them to adequately fund active transportation and to increase our legal protections.

The Summit could not have come at a better time. On Saturday, April 13th (two days after the event), the Senate debated and then voted on a five-year, $800 million per year transportation package. This is much more than the $500 million bill passed by the House, which Governor Deval Patrick has threatened to veto since it falls so far short of his ten-year, $1.2 billion per year plan.

Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition of organizations including MassBike and WalkBoston, released a statement on the Senate’s transportation bill. Here is an excerpt:

As passed, the bill makes progress by closing yearly budget shortfalls and begins to address our significant maintenance backlog. However, it does not provide sufficient funding to move our transportation system into the 21st century. The bill’s revenue projections are too optimistic and the total funds insufficient.

Because two different versions of the bill were passed by the separate chambers, they will now go to a conference committee. The differences will have to be worked out, and MassBike is hopeful that the end result will do two things:

  • Restore dedicated funding for shared-use paths, and ensure that biking and walking are included in everyday road and bridge projects.
  • Maintain, or ideally increase, the Senate’s bottom line funding for transportation – though the latter seems unlikely.

Finally, we asked Summit attendees to ask their legislators to support specific pieces of bike/pedestrian safety legislation, which you can find here. Because the Legislature’s focus so far this session has been on funding, the first public hearings for these bills have not yet been scheduled. We’ll let you know just as soon as that happens.

As always, we are going to count on your support to call up your legislators and tell them that these issues matter. We will be issuing action alerts as the need arises so that the needs of bicyclists don’t get lost in the broader legislative conversation. Thanks as always, we couldn’t do it without you.

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