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America Walks Advocates Dedicated Funding for Pedestrian Infrastructure

January 2, 2010

The following letter was sent on December 29, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC, 20500

Dear Mr. President:

You recently indicated your intention to provide a second round of job-creating stimulus funding for infrastructure projects, including a substantial allocation for highway construction, similar to the first round of funding. America Walks, a national advocacy group for pedestrians, believes that an increase in dedicated stimulus funding for pedestrian-oriented infrastructure is a critical missing piece of the package.

America Walks supports creating and retaining jobs through infrastructure repair and installation. However, we have grave concerns about focusing construction on highways. Such projects encourage the continued outward expansion of sprawling, auto-dependent suburbs. By their very nature, road expansion projects discourage walking and bicycling, and make them less safe. In so doing, they increase greenhouse gases, contribute to our obesity and health crisis, and degrade life in our urban areas.

Pedestrian facilities are dramatically underfunded, leading to a high level of pedestrian deaths and missed opportunities to encourage walking. Although passage of SAFETEA-LU in 2005 increased federal transportation funds to states by 30%, no state spends more than 5% of its federal transportation dollars on pedestrians. In the 52 largest metro areas, annual spending on pedestrians and cyclists averages $1.39/person.

The Louisville Metropolitan Planning Organization in Kentucky provides a model for how pedestrian infrastructure spending can meet the goals of the stimulus package. The MPO is spending $7.4M of current stimulus funds on renovating and installing sidewalks in each of its cities. This modest investment will result in 40 contracts (with 100 local contractors eligible to bid) and 250 jobs. “’Starting next spring, people will see sidewalk construction and repair occurring in every part of the city,’ said Mayor Jerry Abramson. ‘And it will make a real difference in the lives of every citizen,’ improving safety, aiding mobility and upgrading the environment.” (Louisville Courier Journal, November 30, 2009)

Jobs creation from pedestrian improvement projects can be achieved rapidly: most projects are small-scale and require little or no environmental analysis, provide tremendous benefits, and create the greatest number of local jobs per dollar spent. These include sidewalk repair, infill and construction, transit connections to commercial areas and residents, and ADA compliance. The economic boost to communities of all sizes is immediate and significant. Most of the sidewalk cost is labor (60-80%) and that labor force is likely to be local. These infrastructure improvements will foster livable communities (a declared priority), reduce greenhouse gas emissions (another priority) and enhance public health and safety, a health prevention priority in current health care reform bills.

President Obama, America Walks strongly urges you to redirect a second round of jobs-oriented transportation funding to dedicated pedestrian infrastructure projects.

Sincerely,

Mindy Craig
President