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Federal Funding for Bicycle Programs Secure ... for Now

Congress has passed a temporary extension of a major transportation bill that funds much of the bicycle infrastructure in Somerville.

To the delight of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), Congress has agreed to continue funding bicycling and pedestrian programs through March 2012, according to a Sept. 16 post on the group’s blog.

Last week, the MassBike, which has a Metro Boston chapter, drew attention to the possibility that states could run out of federal funding for bicycle programs if the Senate failed to quickly and unanimously pass a major transportation bill that was set to expire Sept. 30. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn had threatened to stall a vote on the bill, according to NPR, because he believed the part of it that sets aside money for “transportation enhancements,” including bike lanes and trails, racks on buses and other infrastructure, was a waste of money.

But Somerville relies on federal funding to expand bicycle infrastructure, said city spokesman Michael Meehan. The 75 bicycle racks and three bicycle corrals that should be ready for use this fall were completely funded by the federal government, he said. It also paid for the painting of bike lanes on Somerville Avenue and Assembly Square Drive and will pay for one-third of the cost of putting into place Hubway bicycle share kiosks in the city. 

“Obviously we do a lot with federal funds,” Meehan said.

MassBike warned that the temporary extension of funding for the transportation bill, which also covers the Federal Aviation Administration and highway projects, would expire after six months. The group said it believed it had the support of Sen. John Kerry but asked cyclists to call Sen. Scott Brown’s office to request his support of bicycle and pedestrian programs.

Meanwhile, Meehan said that the city would like Congress to find a long-term fix, instead of temporary extensions, so that it could better plan for the installation of bicycle infrastructure and the construction of mass transit.   

“This is a big deal bill,” Meehan said, “and we wish the argument was: ‘How much more do we devote to these projects?’”

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