Sunday, February 22, 2015

$30M in TIP funding for Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects

Bike Delaware claims that their strategic funding campaign - Walkable Bikeable Delaware - has helped win $30 million in new and discretionary state and federal funding for bicycling and walking over the next 4 years. Some of our readers have been asking for details on how this money will be spent, so we contacted Wilmapco for an accounting. The table below quantifies bicycle and pedestrian spending for each fiscal year in the 2016-2019 TIP, as well as FY 2015, in New Castle County:

Click on table above to enlarge. Kent and Sussex found here.
Two items that appear vague are Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements and Recreational Trails. Below is how these are defined according to Wilmapco:

DE / Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements: These are additional bicycle and pedestrian improvements that can be incorporated into projects listed as "multi-modal" in the TIP. Examples include adding sidewalks or connecting trails and pathways.

An example of a "multi-modal" TIP project is shown above, which includes pedestrian improvements on the S. Union Street railroad bridge. A bicyclist was killed a few years ago trying to ride on the existing elevated sidewalk, but improvements appear to be pedestrian-only.

Recreational Trails: These are Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds that DelDOT passes on to Delaware State Parks. These can be used for both building and maintaining off-road facilities, including pieces of the Newark-Wilmington Trail that fall within state park boundaries.

What percent of the overall budget will be spent on these projects? DelDOT's total allowance for 2014 was $486M, however, this number is expected to fall to under $400M in 2015 if the legislature fails to agree on new sources of revenue. Assuming we stay at or near this amount, however, it comes to roughly 1.5% of the total transportation budget that is dedicated to bike/ped. 

Is this funding fair and equal in terms of percent dead? Not even close. According to this source, there were 30 pedestrian & bicyclist fatalities in 2014 and 28 in 2013. There were 125 total traffic fatalities in 2014, therefore, people walking and bicycling accounted for 24%. In the 10 year period from 2003 to 2012, pedestrian & bicycle deaths accounted for 18% of the total, so we have seen a sharp increase in the last 2 years.

Is this set to change anytime soon? Apparently not, especially if DelDOT continues to pursue boondoggles like the Route 301 expansion project, which will cost roughly $600M. According to Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog, "Americans drive fewer miles today than in 2005, but since that time the nation has built 317,000 lane-miles of new roads - or about 40,000 miles per year. Maybe that helps explain why America’s infrastructure is falling apart" [Full article ...] 

In summary, we acknowledge Bike Delaware's steady strategic funding campaign that helped put aside funds for several bicycle and pedestrian projects. However, as impressive as $30M sounds, it's only a start and will have minimal, if any impact on safety among vulnerable roadway users. And that is why we need a balanced approach to bicycle (and pedestrian) advocacy; one that also includes retrofitting our existing infrastructure, updating and/or amending relevant laws, and stepping up education and enforcement. The roads will always be there in our travels, and must be addressed on equal terms.

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