Naked City

Cyclists Chastise CAMPO

"This is a raid on bicycle and pedestrian funds," cyclist Tommy Eden protested during Monday's meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Policy Board. Eden, who serves on the city's Urban Transportation Commission, was referring to the CAMPO staff proposal to open up funding that it gets annually from the feds and currently reserves for bikes and peds to car-centric congestion-reduction programs. Preston Tyree of the Texas Bicycle Coalition framed the issue more subtly: With one-third of all Texans either too old or too young to legally own a driver license, he said, pedestrian amenities are too crucial not to receive the "piddly little" allotment of federal STP 4C funding ($1.9 million in FY 2003) CAMPO has earmarked for bike-ped projects in Travis, Hays, and Williamson counties.

Staff's idea to tap into this "wealth" of bike-ped dollars to widen intersections and enhance highways was spawned by the likelihood that next year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will deem the region in nonattainment of federal air-quality standards. Central Texas already exceeds the federal standard for ozone, most of which is produced by cars. The legally binding, local-federal Early Action Compact calls for the area to implement emission control measures at a rate faster than the standard Clean Air Act compliance process requires. If the EAC proves successful, the EPA will defer the nonattainment designation; failing to fix the problem could mean major losses in federal dollars for transportation projects. In the next few weeks, CAMPO staff will issue a call for applications for projects seeking funding for FY 2005-2007, with final approval coming from the board in November.

At Monday's meeting, CAMPO Executive Director Mike Aulick stressed that staff was simply recommending opening up the bike-ped funding. Any changes to how STP 4C money gets distributed will ultimately require the OK of the Transportation Policy Board, made up of local elected officials. State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, who chairs that board, backed up Aulick. "You say they're raiding the bike fund," Barrientos said, addressing Eden. "All it is, is talking." Judging from the board's large number of representatives from rapidly urbanizing suburbs, however, there's plenty of reason for central-city bike-ped advocates to be worried so early in the game.

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