Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Does The Jobs Bill Mean For Local Bicyclists?

Staci Lehman, Spokane Regional Transportation Council

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the proposed jobs bill so thought I’d post what I know. Which, unfortunately, is very little as it has passed the House but not the Senate yet so it’s hard to say how it will shake out. The Senate is reportedly not going to pass the bill as it currently reads, but is on the verge of proposing a much smaller bill than the $154 billion one that the House approved.

With the unemployment rate hitting 10%, the purpose of the bill is to stimulate job creation. So why would the average person reading a blog about bicycling care about the jobs bill? Because it includes a transportation element that could translate into the construction of a local ‘enhancement’ project.

Enhancement projects are federally funded projects that expand travel choices and enhance the transportation ‘experience’ by improving the cultural, historic, aesthetic and environmental aspects of local infrastructure. Projects can include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, streetscape improvements, and other investments that enhance communities and access.

The House version of the jobs bill was passed with $800 million dedicated to Transportation Enhancements programs nationwide. Early speculation is that will translate into one enhancement project constructed per region. By ‘region,’ we mean Spokane and Kootenai Counties in our area. The bill is expected to work like last year’s stimulus funding- projects to be considered would have to be ‘shovel ready’ within 90 days. And while we have a lot of local bike and pedestrian projects that need to be built, it’s not clear yet if any of them could be ready that soon. It’s also not clear what other stipulations would be put on projects to be considered.

At Spokane Regional Transportation Council and Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (SRTC’s sister agency), we are working with area jurisdictions(Spokane, Spokane Valley, Spokane County, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai County, area small towns, etc.) to sift through their ‘to do’ lists to determine which projects may qualify.

So now the waiting game starts- waiting for the Senate to either approve the current jobs bill or propose their own; waiting while the two branches of government come to a compromise on how to combine their two versions of the bill; and waiting to see if local jurisdictions have projects that are eligible. I’ll keep you posted.


SRTC Staff said...

I forgot to mention that I'll be out of the office for 1 1/2 weeks so if anyone has questions on this, either attempt to answer them amongst yourselves (Bike To Work Barb who posts here is very knowledgable on these topics) or I'll check for questions when I get back in the office on Feb. 15.-Staci

amidnightrider said...

49-41 is my guess on the vote.

SRTC Staff said...

I've been out for a week and a half so I'll have to check out the latest on this and get back to you on my 'odds.'