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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Elected Leaders of TN Who Want to Take Away Funding for Walkability

Please recognize that there are leaders in our state and in our city who want to remove funding from walkability...yesterday, there was a bill introduced to the Transportation Subcommittee to prevent the gas tax being used for non-vehicular travel (only for roads, not for sidewalks or bike lanes which the gas tax currently helps fund via TDOT).

If you feel that Nashville is wholly deficient in high quality walkability consider the possibility of additional cuts to funding.  Law makers who do not understand the implications are really important to connect with in order to educate.  People often ask what they can do to help -> they can get involved quickly by writing or calling their elected leaders and asking them for the best walkability possible for the health, safety and pleasure of all in Tennessee.


Sen. Gardenhire and Rep. Carter Propose Deadly Anti-Pedestrian and Anti-Bike Bill
General Overview

In January 2016 TN Senator Gardenhire and Representative Carter introduced a bill (HB1650--SB1716) to the state Transportation Subcommittee to prevent the use of gas tax revenue for non-vehicular travel. Even though bicycles are considered a vehicle under Tennessee State Law, the intent of this dangerous bill is to prevent TDOT from building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This bill hurts all Tennesseans, since the majority of those who walk and bike in our state also contribute to the gas tax fund. All road users benefit from decreased congestion and improved safety, some of the many benefits of providing walking, biking, and transit options. Walk Bike Nashville opposes this bill because of its extremely negative effects on the mobility and safety of all Tennesseans.

Businesses, local governments, groups and individuals across the state are speaking out against this bill. The Department of Transportation also submitted a fiscal note that describes how this bill will violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and jeopardize Tennessee’s access to nearly a billion dollars of transportation funding from the Federal Highway Administration--funding generated in part by Tennessee taxpayers. Help us stop this disastrous bill before it compromises essential transportation investments.

As of February 10 this bill was placed on the schedule for the Transportation Subcommittee for February 17, 2016.

What you Can Do:

Impacts of HB1650/SB1716

1. Violation of Americans with Disabilities Act
  • According to the TN Department of Transportation's fiscal note, this bill will result in a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and will jeopardize federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration. Read more here.
2. Bring Back 1950s Transportation Engineering
  • This bill will prevent TDOT from building infrastructure for people who walk and bike during road widenings and new road projects. This will make it much harder to improve safety along Nashville's busy state routes. Planned TDOT widenings on Nolensville and Clarksville Pikes will no longer include sidewalks and bike lanes. Future safety improvements on other pikes and state routes will be equally compromised. 
3. Decrease State and Federal Funds Available to Local Governments
  • Local transportation projects that depend on an 80% state or federal match will now be required to find alternate sources of funding. Metro’s local funds will be unable to cover the local match required for most major transportation investments, halting progress on building a safer, more efficient multimodal transportation network. Other local governments across the state will suffer the same effect. 
4. Hurt Businesses and Kill Jobs
  • Businesses in Nashville and around the state recognize the importance of being located in walkable, bikeable and livable areas. Not only are walkable areas magnets for customers, but they are also magnets for today's workforce. Increasingly a majority of the workforce chooses where to live based on quality of life. Read more about this trend here. We want to empower these businesses by building more of the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure they need. This bill will prevent the state from investing in livable streets that are so in demand by businesses across the state. 
5. Eliminate the Multimodal Access Fund
  • Last year this Fund distributed $10.4 Million in grants to 14 communities to support the transportation needs of transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists by addressing gaps along the state highway network. TDOT will have to kill this popular grant program that increases safety and decreases congestion for all Tennesseans. 
6. Void TDOT's Multimodal Access Policy
  • Tennessee’s statewide complete streets policy, known as the Multimodal Access Policy, was enacted in July 2015 to encourage safe access for all road users of all abilities on state roads. This proposed state bill will use the “power of the purse” to void our state’s Multimodal Access Policy.
7. Further Endanger People on our Streets
  • This bill will block much needed safety improvements for all road-users along our most dangerous streets. Last year 120 pedestrians and bike riders were killed on Tennessee's streets, a 20-year high. If funding for basic infrastructure is eliminated-- while our cities continue to grow faster than ever--we can only expect this number to go up. 
8. Lead to a Loss of Valuable Tourism and Commercial Dollars
  • Bike facilities are a major draw for commuters and tourists alike. States across the country have produced clear evidence that those on foot and bike contribute more per day to the local economy than drivers. You can read more in Advocacy Advance's Bike's Mean Business Report. Limiting state transportation investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure means Tennessee will be loosing out on valuable economic activity. 
Last year Governor Haslam said "Improving our facilities for walking, biking, and transit is critical to the continued growth and success of our towns and cities". We agree! For that reason we strongly oppose House Bill 1650 -- Senate Bill 1716 and urge you to do so as well.

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