Last Friday, still dripping from a wave of support from Illinois and the rest of America to preserve trail funding, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its draft transportation reauthorization bill that shrinks trails funding for the next two years by more than $80 million, from $1.15 billion to $833 million. And those funds are no longer set aside by mandate for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. They can be raided by the state for more roads.
This moment, right now, is why Trails for Illinois matters to your life, your community. Two reasons:
1. Less obligation for Illinois to spend federal funding on trails means more depends on relentless & statewide trails advocacy. If the Senate language survives markup—and our DC friends say it will, as Senators Boxer and Inhoefe have prevented amendments—it will set the tone for the transportation debate in the U.S. House. And if Illinois gets the flexibility to let itself off the hook from creating safe, convenient, and sustainable pathways for enjoyment and transportation, then our relationship building and advocacy in Springfield and in Illinois lawmakers’ home districts—already a critical and core activity—will directly impact whether dollars are spent on trails—or not.
2. Statewide trails advocacy is key to the federal transportation fight. Senator Boxer’s bill backtracks on promises she made to trail advocates this past summer, and it’s lowered our expectations for the Senate’s version of the transportation bill. But passage in the Senate remains, and the House gets a say; one of the things they’re saying is lawmakers want a 6-year transportation bill, not a 2-year as the Senate is likely to propose. There are a lot of wins left on the table for trails, and capturing them requires the diligence, connections and quick feet that only a statewide trails advocacy organization can provide.
We’ve been waiting for the larger battle for federal trails funding to begin, and, with Boxer’s stunning draft, suddenly find ourselves in it. While you consider your end-of-year giving, please consider that the fight for continued federal investment in trails for Illinois has suddenly begun. Trails for Illinois needs your year-end gift to fund the work ahead.
Please use our simple and safe donation page hosted by Razoo.com to pledge your support for Trails for Illinois. We’re working with our Washington, DC partners to craft a strategy in response to Boxer’s draft, and that will help shape our strategy here in Illinois. Within a week, we should have a plan of action for your involvement. Stay tuned, and thank you for reading! And remember to give!