Congressman Albio Sires, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced H.R. 3978, a credit assistance pilot program on Jan. 29 after participating in a hearing the previous day of the "Improving the Effectiveness of the Federal Surface Transportation Safety Grant Programs". Sires asked witnesses at the hearing "how the federal government can make our roads safer for all users," writes Denise Copeland of N.J. com's off-road bike blog.
"More than 30,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, and 17% of those deaths were our roads most vulnerable users: pedestrians and bicyclists. Yet, only 1.5% of federal transportation funding goes towards making our sidewalks and streets safer for them," said Sires in his press release on the hearing.
His bill is modeled on the successful and bipartisan Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program that "provides Federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance" (according to its Federal Highway Administration webpage).
The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (NOBPIFA) will allow communities to take advantage of low-cost financing for projects that make streets and sidewalks safer for all users through a new federal credit assistance program that would direct millions specifically for low-income communities.
While the report highlights strong growth in bicycle ridership across America’s communities, it also raises concerns about the significant challenges faced by many underserved communities. To that point, in 2001 the fatality rate was 23% higher for Hispanic and 30% higher for African-Americans when compared to white riders. This legislation would require that 25% of project funding benefit underserved communities, with the goal of creating a more equitable, safe roadway environment for all Americans.
Should the bill become law, one challenge it will have will be to shorten its acronym, NOBPIFA, to make it easier to pronounce.