by Max Brantley
A trail advocate in Northwest Arkansas told us earlier today that House Republican spending cuts include a $15 million grant for a 40-mile bike trail to run from Fayetteville to Lake Bella Vista. This is a trail for which the Walton family has committed a signficant matching sum. We haven't run down all the angles just yet, but I see the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith is quoting new Republican Rep. Steve Womack, former Rogers mayor, as saying he supports the bike trail but won't do anything to try to save the federal money for it. He said he's sure that if the trail is really needed, some other way will be found to pay for it.
Kiss that trail goodbye, in other words. Washington and Benton county voters aren't likely to be approving any taxes for one of those communistic bike trails any time soon. You might recall that Rep. Donna Hutchinson wrote a factually flawed diatribe against this trail back in December. Trails are just a fad, she said. Transportation money should be spent on roads for cars, she said. Trail advocate Terry Eastin responded at the time, in part:
Between 1992 and 2007 the federal Recreational Trails Program spent $800 million dollars funding 10,000 projects. Sounds like a lot? By comparison, $25 trillion was spent on federal highway construction. The money built 8,178,000 lane miles of new highway. The Recreational Trails Program investment was .00032 percent of the Federal Highway Administration’s road investment.
Gerard Matthews' cover story this week happens to mention the ascendancy of fringe political types who see a U.N. conspiracy in bike trails and other "smart growth."
NOTE: A technical screwup required the reposting of this item and the side effect was the loss of some 18 comments on the topic, many of them thoughtful, both pro and con. Some professed to be bike riders who thought the expense excessive during hard times; others defended the need for spending on alternative transportation means, particularly those that are a tiny fraction of highway expenditures. Sorry that all that good work was lost. I invite reposts, of course.