Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 193 – An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects
June 2, 2015
Good Afternoon Senator Hamper, Representative Rotundo, and distinguished members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. My name Abby King. I am a resident of Portland and I represent the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today in support of funding for walking and biking infrastructure projects in any transportation bond passed this session.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members across the state urge you to support direct funding for infrastructure projects like sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and multi-use paths. These projects are fundamentally about transportation choice, safety, access, and equity. They deserve to be funded directly in the transportation bond. Ultimately, biking and walking infrastructure is about the safety of Maine people and the economic vibrancy of Maine towns and cities.
Every year, hundreds of people walking and biking on Maine roads are hit by cars and injured or killed as a result. Over 1,300 pedestrians and over 1,000 bicyclists were hit by cars in Maine from 2009 – 2013. In 2014 alone, 15 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed on the road when hit by cars.
Providing walkways separated from the travel lanes could help to prevent up to 88 percent of pedestrian deaths that occur when the pedestrian is walking in the road. Study after study has shown that people will leave the car at home and choose to ride and walk if they have well-designed streets, sidewalks, and multi-use paths available for them.
We have not prioritized funding for transportation projects that would reduce these needless deaths and debilitating injuries. Each year, MaineDOT can only meet, at most, 10% of the demand for stand-alone biking and walking projects from the towns and cities that apply. In 2012, 92 communities applied for a competitive grant for bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure projects. None of those projects were funded due to the already long list of backlogged projects.
LD 193 would fund the construction of 39 backlogged biking and walking infrastructure projects. This bond would leverage 20% of all planning and construction funds from the local communities. This backlog is real and it’s affecting communities all over the state. All of the 39 projects on the list in front of you have been approved and deemed “eligible and worthy” for design, construction, or both by the Maine DOT, yet they continue to wait for funding.
This list represents projects all over the state, from Waterboro to Presque Isle, that would keep children, seniors, families, and all Mainers safe, and that would benefit local businesses and revitalize Maine downtowns. In the case of many of these projects, the plans have been approved and the communities have devoted their share of the local match funding. They are simply waiting for the State to devote its share of the funds that have been promised. The list before you contains dozens of shovel-ready projects all over our state that would provide jobs, make Maine children and families safer and healthier, and help revitalize struggling Maine downtowns.
Biking and walking encourage economic development by increasing foot traffic to local businesses, by attracting a young people (who increasingly want live downtown and enjoy a short, active commute to work) to move to Maine, and by serving our seniors who want to Age in Place and continue to participate, shop, volunteer, and engage in their community. Construction of biking and walking projects will create much-needed jobs in our state. An average bicycle project creates 3.6 more jobs per $1 million invested than a car-only project. And small projects like sidewalks and bike paths are labor intensive and more likely to be contracted to local construction companies rather than larger out-of-state firms.
If we had funding to build these shovel-ready projects, the safety of all road users would improve, and our transportation network would be accessible to all Mainers including the 24% of Maine residents who don’t drive. For the sake of our economy, our safety, our health, and our environment, and because all people in Maine deserve an equal opportunity to get from place-to-place safely in their communities, please support funding for biking and walking projects.