Congress passed a five-year $305 billion highway bill Dec. 3 that includes several big wins for motorcyclists, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
"Some of these issues -- such as motorcycle-only checkpoints and recreational trails funding -- are ones we have been battling for several years, and it is a major victory to get language in the highway bill that meets our goals," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations.
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act includes:
- Continued funding for the Recreational Trails Program, which provides funding to states for maintaining, improving and expanding off-highway recreational opportunities;
- A prohibition against using federal funds for discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints;
- Reestablishing a Motorcyclist Advisory Council to coordinate with and counsel the U.S. Department of Transportation administrator on specific infrastructure concerns to motorcyclists;
- Funding of highway safety grants that include programs to reduce distracted driving, including language that make it easier for states to successfully qualify for and receive the money;
- Measures to ensure privacy and security in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology; and
- No expansion of pilot programs to place tolls on the nation's existing interstate highways under the Interstate System Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Pilot Program.
With AMA support, administration of the Recreational Trails Program moved from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which was eliminated, into a separate standalone fund within the Federal Highway Administration.
"The new arrangement for the Recreational Trails Program provides more certainty and stability," Allard said. "The TAP funding was a constant target for legislators who were looking for ways to cut programs that were not self-supporting. The RTP is funded by gas taxes paid into the Highway Trust Fund by off-highway-vehicle users, but was in jeopardy by being lumped in with the other TAP programs."
The ban on federal funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints comes after eight years of battling this discriminatory and ineffective law-enforcement tactic, Allard said.
"Our focus now can shift to oversight, monitoring how law enforcement agencies use their federal funding, and to efforts at the state level to convince legislatures to prohibit these checkpoints," Allard said. "But this move at the federal level means motorcyclists can once again travel our nation's highways without the constant fear of being stopped just because of their choice of vehicle."
The highway bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.