California Legislature Rescinds Deep Cuts to Active Transportation Program in Latest Budget Proposal

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SACRAMENTO, California (May 29, 2024) — In a significant move, the California legislature released its budget proposal today, reversing the severe cuts to the Active Transportation Program (ATP) that were initially suggested in the Governor’s Budget. Instead of slashing funds, the legislature plans to compensate for these cuts by reallocating state highway funding. This decision has been warmly welcomed by CalBike, which has long advocated for the ATP and its essential role in supporting walking and bicycling projects across the state.

CalBike Responds to Legislative Support

CalBike’s policy director, Jared Sanchez, expressed his gratitude: “I’m glad the legislature recognized the value of the Active Transportation Program. The legislature heard from its constituents and saved a popular program many local communities rely on to fund infrastructure projects.”

California’s Active Transportation Program helps fund projects like this bikes-only through intersection at Virginia and Sacramento in Berkeley, California. Photo by Dave Iltis

Jeanie Ward-Waller, a consultant for CalBike, highlighted the broader implications: “The ATP is critical to meeting California’s climate goals and addressing the crisis of rising pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on our roadways, especially in disadvantaged communities across the state. We commend the Legislature for their strong support of shifting funding from car-centric infrastructure to improve walking and biking.”

The Importance of the Active Transportation Program

The Active Transportation Program is a vital competitive funding source designed to enhance biking and walking safety. It distributes approximately $500 million in each two-year funding cycle, supporting a range of projects aimed at improving non-motorized transportation infrastructure.

California’s Active Transportation Program helps fund projects like this cycling and pedestrian bridge over I-80 in Berkeley, California. Photo by Dave Iltis

In 2022, the ATP received a substantial one-time funding boost of $1.05 billion from the general fund budget surplus, which increased the total for Cycle 6 to $1.6 billion. Despite this boost, the ATP remains chronically underfunded and oversubscribed, leaving many valuable projects unfunded.

Budget Battles and the Future of ATP

In 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a $300 million cut from the ATP’s one-time general fund boost. However, the legislature and the Governor reached a compromise to backfill this cut from the State Highway Account, ensuring no reductions in the final budget for the ATP.

BART has long encouraged Active Transportation by allowing cyclists to ride the train, especially from the East Bay into San Francisco, where the only other option is the San Francisco Bay Ferry. Photo by Dave Iltis

The tension continued into January 2024, when the governor initially proposed cutting $200 million from the ATP. This amount was dramatically increased to $600 million in the May Revise, a cut that threatened to delay and potentially cancel projects awarded in Cycle 6 and could eliminate an entire future cycle of ATP grants.

Critically, no cuts were proposed for highway projects that contribute to increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions. This is despite the fact that California’s transportation budget is well-funded, bolstered by substantial federal and state funds.

A Step Forward for Active Transportation

The legislature’s decision to restore funding to the ATP underscores the importance of active transportation in California’s future. By prioritizing walking and biking infrastructure, the state is not only promoting safer, more sustainable travel but also making strides toward its climate goals and addressing pressing public safety issues.

By funding infrastructure projects that make it safer and easier for cyclists and pedestrians, more people can give up their cars in favor of alternatives like this cargo bike for local trips. Photo by Dave Iltis.

CalBike and its supporters remain vigilant and hopeful that this legislative support will translate into continued commitment to the Active Transportation Program, ensuring that essential projects receive the funding they need to succeed.

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