Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Last month, Congress passed the Federal Transportation Act of 2012. The legislation was touted as a "jobs bill," as it includes funding for transportation infrastructure projects. However, the bill cut funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects by 33 percent nationally, reversing years of progress on biking and walking policy.
A cyclist crosses Veterans Memorial Bridge during opening ceremonies June 28. The bridge includes a walkway for pedestrians and cyclists. A federal bill slashed funds for such projects at a time of rising demand, says the head of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s board.
2012 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is especially distressed by these cuts because they come at a time when the public's demand for biking and walking projects is increasing.
A survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates International shows that the vast majority of Americans want federal funding for biking and walking. Eighty-three percent of Americans surveyed supported maintaining or growing federal funding for sidewalks, bikeways and bike paths.
Indeed, the bill was passed the day after the opening of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Portland, which now includes a 12-foot-wide walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists. More than 100 cyclists and pedestrians were present at the opening ceremony.
This enthusiasm is not limited to Portland. This spring, 92 communities applied for the Maine Department of Transportation's Quality Community Grants, funding projects to improve transportation and safety. Typical projects include sidewalks, crossing improvements, multi-use paths and bike lanes. These requests totaled $45 million; $7 million was available.
These federal cuts mean even less money to meet the communities' needs. With demand for bike- and pedestrian-friendly projects clearly growing in Maine and around the country, this significant cut in federal funding is especially disappointing.
The coalition is concerned that Maine's strong tradition of commitment to bicycling and walking is threatened. This federal transportation bill is a wake-up call that a great deal of work must be done to convince legislators that the American public wants more alternative transportation options -- not less.
chairman, board of directors
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Developer listened to public on Hampshire Street plan
The project to reclaim one of the most blighted areas of the India Street neighborhood is scheduled to go before the Planning Board on Tuesday.
The Hampshire Street project, supported by Donald Sussman, is an example of developer-neighborhood cooperation that should serve as a model of working together to create both a viable project and one that the neighborhood needs and wants. (Editor's Note: Sussman is the majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.)
For more than a year before approaching the city government, Tom Federle and others were working, on Mr. Sussman's behalf, with the India Street Neighborhood Association. There were many meetings with the association's board of directors and several publicly advertised meetings.
The process was transparent, and all questions and suggestions were fully addressed. While not every item on everyone's wish list may have been included, every effort was made by both the neighborhood and the developer to cooperate and accommodate the other's needs and suggestions.
We would like to thank Mr. Sussman and all who were involved in developing this creative project.
president, board of directors
India Street Neighborhood Association
Affordable Care Act ruling threat to freedom of religion
In the past few decades, Congress has passed legislation that protected the rights of health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions on religious grounds. But things just changed with the approval of the Affordable Care Act.
Now almost all Americans will be forced to subsidize abortions. This is because private insurance plans will have to pay for morally controversial offerings such as contraception, sterilization and drugs that induce abortions.
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