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July 14, 2003

 

The Honorable C.W. Bill Young

Chairman

Committee on Appropriations

Room H-218 Capitol

 

The Honorable David R. Obey

Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations

1016 Longworth House Office Building

 

Dear Chairman Young and Ranking Member Obey,

 

On behalf of the 100,000 members and supporters of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, I write to express our strong opposition to the decision of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies to eliminate all funding for Transportation Enhancements activities at the U.S. Department of Transportation. I urge you to oppose this ill-conceived action when the bill is considered at full committee.

 

In places large and small – urban, suburban and rural – Americans are working at the local level to protect and enhance the health of their communities. These local efforts often address challenges such as growing traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality and loss of open space. In community after community, these challenges threaten the quality of life of the places where we live, work, play and raise our families.

 

Due to the foresight of the U.S. Congress, Transportation Enhancements have been a highly effective and innovative means of providing Federal support for community-based transportation projects that enhance local quality of life. Established in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, Transportation Enhancements fund 12 categories of eligible activities that include pedestrian and bicycle facilities; scenic or historic highway programs; historic preservation; and preservation of abandoned railway corridors and conversion to rail-trails.

 

Without a doubt, this is one of the U.S. DOT’s most popular programs because it provides tangible benefits for the American people by improving the economic and environmental health of our communities. Since 1992, Transportation Enhancements has provided $5.97 billion to states to support 16,699 community-based projects. (I have enclosed a printout of every Transportation Enhancements project in your state since 1992.) Of total spending, $3.05 billion has been invested in bicycle, pedestrian and rail-trail projects.

 

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For example, Transportation Enhancements made possible the development of the 47-mile Pinellas Trail, which runs from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, FL. This popular facility now enjoys 90,000 users per month. Approximately one-third of those trips are for commuting or with a destination in mind, making the trail a vital transportation link. While originally developed for recreation, thousands of bicycle commuters now use trails such as the Pinellas to get to work, thereby reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, while building physical activity into their daily lives. And the importance of routine physical activity is a growing national concern.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, obesity and overweight have reached epidemic proportions. In the last 10 years, obesity rates among adults have increased by 60 percent. In 1999, 61 percent of American adults were overweight or obese. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled, and the percentage of adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled.

There is an emerging consensus that communities primarily designed for automobile use deny residents – particularly children – opportunities for walking, bicycling and other forms of daily physical activity that are essential to a healthy lifestyle.

 

For this reason, I applauded President Bush’s leadership in drawing national attention to the obesity epidemic when he unveiled his Healthier U.S. Initiative. And I applaud the President now for proposing full funding for the Transportation Enhancements program in the SAFETEA proposal that he recently delivered to the Congress. Transportation Enhancements is the most important Federal program available to encourage active living by investing in safe and healthy places in our communities for families to walk, to skate or to bicycle. It is vitally important if we are to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic.

 

Finally, I must emphasize that Transportation Enhancements account for less than 2˘ of every Federal surface transportation dollar. For less than 2˘ per dollar we get a popular program that supports locally-initiated transportation projects in communities across America. Those who would eliminate this program believe that every single Federal penny should be spent on highways. I urge you to reject such short-sighted thinking. The quality of life in our neighborhoods and the health of our families are at stake.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Keith Laughlin

President

 

Enclosure

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS:

website:  www.house.gov/appropriations/

ratio:  36 majority members/ 29 minority members

Subcommittees 13


 

TO PHONE ANY MEMBER & BE TRANSFERRED TO THEIR OFFICE CALL:  202-224-3121

 


Republicans:

C.W. “Bill” Young, FL, Chairman

Ralph Regula, OH, Vice Chairman

Jerry Lewis, CA

Harold Rogers, KY

Frank R. Wolf, VA

Jim Kolbe, AZ

James T. Walsh, NY

Charles H. Taylor, NC

David L. Hobson, OH

Ernest J. Istook, Jr., OK

Henry Bonilla, TX

Joseph “Joe” Knollenberg, MI

Jack Kingston, GA

Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, NJ

Roger F. Wicker, MS

George R. Nethercutt, Jr., WA

Randy “Duke” Cunningham, CA

Todd Tiahrt, KS

Zach Wamp, TN

Tom Latham, IA

Anne M. Northup, KY

Robert B. Aderholt, AL

Jo Ann Emerson, MO

Kay Granger, TX

John E. Peterson, PA

Virgil H. Goode, Jr., VA

John T. Doolittle, CA

Ray LaHood, IL

John E. Sweeney, NY

David Vitter, LA

Don Sherwood, PA

Dave Weldon, FL

Michael K. Simpson, ID

John Abney Culberson, TX

Mark Steven Kirk, IL

Ander Crenshaw, FL

 

Democrats:

David R. Obey, WI, Ranking

John P. Murtha, PA

Norman D. Dicks, WA

Martin Olav Sabo, MN

Steny H. Hoyer, MD

Alan B. Mollohan, WV

Marcy Kaptur, OH

Peter J. Visclosky, IN

Nita M. Lowey, NY

Jose E. Serrano, NY

Rosa L. DeLauro, CT

James P. Moran, VA

John W. Olver, MA

Ed Pastor, AZ

David E. Price, NC

Chet Edwards, TX

Robert E. “Bud” Cramer, Jr., AL

Patrick J. Kennedy, RI

James E. Clyburn, SC

Maurice D. Hinchey, NY

Lucille Roybal-Allard, CA

Sam Farr, CA

Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., IL

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, MI

F. Allen Boyd, Jr., FL

Chaka Fattah, PA

Steven R. Rothman, NJ

Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., GA

Marion Berry, AR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Majority Staff Director:  James W. Dyer Phone:  202-225-2771   

Fax:  Declined to provide a general number

 

Minority Staff Director:  Scott Lilly

Phone:  202-225-3481 

Fax:  202-225-9476