Better World Club

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

AAA Mid-Atlantic Continues ''War'' for Motorists

Rails-to-Trails Mounts a Defense...(OK, It's a Petition Drive. But It's Action!)

Meanwhile, AAA National has yet to Respond on Issue of Reappropriating Highway Transportation Fund Dollars

In an editorial printed in the July/August issue of AAA World, AAA Mid-Atlantic President and CEO Don Gagnon argued that money from the Highway Transportation Fund (HTF) be restricted to highway spending.

His argument doesn't seem so unreasonable given that the HTF is so named, except that, since 1991, Congress has been flexible in its spending from the fund in order to support the development of a multi-modal transportation infrastructure.

As a result of Gagnon's editorial, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a DC non-profit working to create and connect a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines, started a petition campaign to convince AAA National President Robert Darbelnet to disavow Gagnon's stance.

Like Better World Club, Rails-to-Trails supports a diverse transportation investment that encourages and provides for mass transit and active transportation like walking and bicycling.

Gagnon's position is that funding for transportation programs outside of the interstate highway system should not come from a fund that was originally created to support that system. The response that Ronald Kosh, Mid-Atlantic's VP of Public and Government Affairs, sent to Rails-to-Trails President Keith Laughling after being contacted by RTC supporters reiterated that change of accounting solution: "Let general revenues address the other expenses."

With all of that extra general revenue lying around, non-highway transportation projects shouldn't have any trouble meeting their ends, right? Unfortunately, in addition to the scarcity of general funds for new government projects, the mass transportation, walking, and bicycling programs currently supported by the HTF would lose not only resources but also the implementation channels that they've established over the last two decades.

As RTC acknowledges at its website, "ultimately, if AAA Mid-Atlantic's position on federal transportation funding were implemented, it would be devastating to trails, walking and bicycling because effective programs would be orphaned from the rest of transportation, denying them resources and well-established implementation channels."

AAA often argues that it's not anti-bike, but it obviously doesn't make any secret of being very pro-car.

Back in June, we reported on AAA Mid-Atlantic's opposition to a DC plan for new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue. During that conflict, AAA Mid-Atlantic Managing Director of Public Affairs Lon Anderson released a statement complaining about the DC government's "war on motorists." AAA National then distanced itself from Mid-Atlantic and emphasized its "share the road" message.

First the Managing Director of Public Affairs, and now the President. AAA Mid-Atlantic must really be feeding off the Tea Party vibe that's been hanging over the capital lately. All of its officials seem hell bent on "going rogue."

AAA is a federation of dozens of regional clubs, so it isn't surprising that local leadership have differing opinions on certain issues from region to region. But Gagnon has taken an extreme stance on a major federal policy issue that will affect programs throughout the country. Let's hope that AAA National steps in again with a more level-headed position.

Or maybe that's just our job.

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