Although the contentious debates in Washington over the new stimulus package have rendered tangible federal aid an abstract and, skeptics might say, rather dubious prospect, it appears that some of the money might actually turn up close to home. The bill, signed by President Obama on February 17, contains $825 million for “Transportation Enhancements,” the nation’s largest funding source for improvements to pedestrian infrastructure. From a stimulus perspective, walking paths, bike trails, and pedestrian infrastructure in general are excellent places to channel money because these projects are considered “shovel ready” and provide community resources while avoiding competition with private sector productivity. That trails improve quality of life, raise house values, contribute to sustainability, and add millions back into state and local economies is simply icing on the unemployment-reducing cake.
The actual distribution of funds has not yet been determined, but it is likely that eastern Pennsylvania will receive some of the funding. Over the last few months, many trail and planning organizations, including the D&L, submitted lists of shovel-ready projects, in anticipation of stimulus funds. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, however, the allotment exceeded expectations. It is also might signify a shift in federal “active transportation” funding policies. “[The funding’s] place within the stimulus package,” the Conservancy noted, “heralds a transition in thinking among elected leaders who once viewed active transportation projects as niceties and now know them to be necessities for a balanced transportation system and a robust economy.”
Every cloud has a silver lining…