Renewed funding for motorized trails and a ban on funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints are included in a major federal transportation bill being considered by a key U.S. House committee, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to vote Feb. 2 on a transportation funding authorization bill -- H.R. 7, the "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012." If approved, the measure would go to the full House for a vote before moving to the Senate for consideration.
Since the Senate has its own version of the bill, the spending plan would eventually end up in a House-Senate conference committee where differences would be worked out before going back to both chambers for final approval.
The House measure includes $85 million a year through fiscal year 2016 for the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which provides money to states to develop and maintain trails. Federal lawmakers had been looking at eliminating the dedicated funding for the program, which threatened to end the RTP.
"Motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle riders by the thousands spoke, and federal lawmakers listened," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "We want to thank the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for their hard work in putting together this massive transportation bill, and for including provisions that benefit our members."
Funds for the RTP come from the federal Highway Trust Fund and represent a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use. In other words, taxes generated by fuel used for off-highway vehicle recreation -- by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-highway motorcycles and off-highway light trucks -- fund the RTP.
The RTP provides funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. The RTP is an assistance program of the U.S. Transportation Department's Federal Highway Administration. The RTP program benefits hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, ATV riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles.
Besides including RTP funding, the House measure bars the U.S. transportation secretary from providing grants to states and local governments for motorcycle-only checkpoints, which are opposed by the AMA. The AMA has been tracking the disturbing development of motorcycle-only checkpoints since they first appeared in New York several years ago.
"The AMA believes that strategies to promote motorcycle safety must be rooted in motorcycle crash prevention, and don't include arbitrarily pulling over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections," Allard said.
The House bill also provides funding for state motorcycle safety programs. The AMA has long promoted motorcycle rider education and motorist awareness programs as essential strategies to prevent motorcycle crashes.
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