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Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is where laws and funding decisions are made that affect our daily lives. We would be smart to pay attention to news that comes from here.

Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org. “Gary Fisher telling US DOT Sec. Ray LaHood (and I paraphrase), ‘Look at this turnout… look at all these people here supporting bikes!’ “

Yesterday, Ray LaHood (Secretary of the Department of Transportation), fresh from his “tabletop speech” at the National Bike Summit, announced a big change in federal transportation funding and project selection policy.

The United States DOT says in “Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations” that the recommended actions were created based on already existing law and regulations.

I hope this policy change has the authority of your mom telling you not to eat cookies because she made them for a neighbor – and if you do get a couple, you’ll see the consequences in the form of a wooden spoon.

Why should we be “Collecting data on walking and biking trips”? Well, we might get the wooden spoon if we don’t, but “Communities that routinely collect walking and bicycling data are able to track trends and prioritize investments to ensure the success of new facilities.”

The document does remind readers that the Secretary (or more likely, his designee, a project reviewer) “has the authority to withhold approval for projects that would negatively impact pedestrians and bicyclists under certain circumstances.”

Found via Active Transportation Alliance. More photos.

Thursday is a big day for high-speed rail in America

UPDATE 2: The Transport Politic has the most detailed and comprehensive information on high-speed rail project/corridor funding, a better looking map than Ray LaHood’s map on LaHood’s blog. The White House Press Office posted separate press releases for each project here.

UPDATE: Chicago Business (Crain’s) says Illinois to get $1.2 billion for high-speed rail projects, including money to build the Englewood Flyover connection (Project P1, see map), a major CREATE component (read more: PDF). CREATE is a multi-agency program to reduce the bottlenecks caused by mixing passenger and freight trains and at-grade road crossings.

Tomorrow, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Tampa, Florida, to announce the thirteen corridors winning a portion of $8 billion in funding for high-speed passenger rail projects.

Infrastructurist predicts four winners.

An Amtrak train heads south from Chicago Union Station. If Illinois receives stimulus funding for high-speed rail, we may see some faster locomotives and some new track emerging from the Chicago South Loop train yards.

Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (from Peoria, Illinois), announced the high-speed passenger rail plan for the United States in Washington, D.C., in April 2009. Photo by Scott Bernstein of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, Illinois.

One of the winners Infrastructurist predicts is the State of Illinois on behalf of a project to upgrade the tracks and rolling stock for the Amtrak lines Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle that run from Chicago to St. Louis. This is by far the state’s most prosperous route. The Illinois DOT has increased the subsidy to this route, increasing the frequency of service. In response, ridership has grown year over year over year (although the gain from 2008 to 2009 was only 6 percent).

Will Americans soon travel with more convenience in the coming decade?

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