RTP Extended Until March 31
Hurray! RTP - an important source of funding for WTA's trail work program - has been extended through March 2012. Photo by Megan McKenzie.
Waiting for the House, Senate and Obama administration move budget bills is akin to watching a game of chicken. With three cars. In slow motion. It's excruciating. Sometimes, though, all three parties veer from their assigned courses and head in the same direction, seemingly at the same time. The passage of the six-month extension of the Surface Transportation Bill was one such instance.
On September 16, with two weeks to spare, the House unanimously consented to the extension. Trails advocates goggled at the fact that it was clean, meaning that accounts like the Transportation Enhancements item were left untouched.
That means that the very important Recreational Trails Program (RTP) was funded for another six months. RTP provides funds to states for the development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities and is a major source of WTA's trail work funding.
But first, the Senate had to concur, and that's the part that made my palms all sweaty. Senator Coburn (R-OK) was threatening to resurrect an amendment from 2009 that would have stripped enhancements from the Surface Transportation Bill, killing RTP and associated programs. He was also threatening to up the ante by filibustering. That's a very serious threat in this climate, since a filibuster could have pushed debate on the bill beyond its September 30 passage deadline, closing the transportation funding spigot and putting millions of Americans out of work.
To my great pleasure, Senator Coburn relented, allowing the bill to move on to passage, which the Senate moved 92-6. With RTP funded through March 31, non-profits and land managers have been provided with a little more certainty in the near-term. For WTA, the extension puts us past grant deadlines and helps us plan more effectively.
The battle is not over. The real prize is a six-year clean reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Bill. If we can make that happen in March, WTA will have a very happy Advocacy Director.
I'd be very remiss if I didn't take a moment to thank Washington's delegation, which is unanimous in its support of RTP. Special recognition must go to Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who circulated a Dear Colleague letter to generate support for RTP in the House.