A bicycle advocacy group strongly opposes an effort by State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, to remove the word “bicycle” from a transportation sales tax bill.
Curtman said he sponsored the amendment in response to some constituents who were concerned that money for bike paths would compete with road and bridge funding. He pointed out that replacing the Bend Road bridge in eastern Franklin County has been a big concern locally.
It is disappointing that Curtman would sponsor the amendment after the Legislature strongly endorsed a Complete Streets resolution to accommodate biking and walking, said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.
Moreover, Hugh said there would be no real competition between improvements to bicycle facilities and other transportation projects.
But Curtman said removing the word “bicycle” from a list of projects that could be funded with the tax does not mean bike projects could not be funded. He noted that the bill would still leave open the possibility for such projects to get some of the money from the transportation sales tax.
Removing the word simply means that “bicycle” will not be specifically added to the state Constitution when it comes to the type of projects eligible for the funding, he said. The bill would still state that the transportation tax is “not limited to” the specific types of projects listed, Curtman said.
Taking out the word “bicycle” is not an attempt to go after bicyclists, Curtman added.
Leaving the word “bicycle” in the bill does not mean governments would be required to build bike paths, Hugh said. But taking it out would send a message to MoDOT that the General Assembly does not support bicycle transportation projects, he added.
Two million Missourians bike every year, Hugh said.
“We’re not talking about a small constituency,” Hugh said. “It’s very significant.”
Bicycling provides another transportation option for people, and that should not be taken away, Hugh said, noting that some people don’t have an automobile. It also provides health benefits during a time when obesity is a problem.
The transportation sales tax bill, which is expected to be voted on in the House this week, would allow the state’s voters to decide whether they wanted to impose a 1-cent transportation sales tax on themselves for 10 years.
A message on Curtman’s blog site says that removing the word bicycle will prevent formally codifying the Missouri Constitution to say that it is the state’s responsibility to maintain local bike trails.
“To my knowledge, MoDOT already offers grant money for bicycle infrastructure for bike lanes on the roads for cities who need it to keep the roads safer, and the Missouri Legislature also offers supplemental revenue from the general revenue fund for the same purpose and my amendment does not jeopardize any of that,” Curtman’s blog states.
The funding MoDOT currently provides for bicycle projects is federal money, not state dollars, Hugh said.
Curtman’s amendment to remove the word “bicycle” from the bill takes away the freedom for local entities to choose how they would use money from the tax, Hugh said.
Officials estimate that the transportation sales tax would generate about $8 billion for the 10 years it was in effect to make transportation system improvements.
Under the bill, 90 percent of the revenue would go to the state and 10 percent would go to cities and counties.