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Bizarro Congress hates outdoors

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If air pollution turns out to be a myth and scientists discover that active lifestyles are actually bad for you, then the members of Congress who axed $600 million for new bike path and walkway construction are geniuses.

More than likely though, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation's recent decision to cut all funding for the Transportation Enhancement program, which mainly funds projects that don't require internal combustion engines, will make history for something else entirely -- shortsightedness.

Members of the subcommittee cited the ever-expanding federal deficit as their reason for 86ing the pathway monies for fiscal year 2004. But -- and here's where logic gets run over by an SUV -- they increased highway construction funds by $2.5 billion over last year's appropriations.

Georgia receives $27 million on average in Transportation Enhancement program funds a year.

Without that money, there would be no Silver Comet trail linking Atlanta to the Alabama state line, or the Stone Mountain Trail, which runs from downtown to Stone Mountain State Park.

Those trails were the brainchild of Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation, which has laid more than 90 miles of trails for biking, walking, skating and jogging, thanks to Transportation Enhancement grants.

McBrayer's goal is to build a network of trails in the metro area totaling more than 200 miles. If the subcommittee gets its way, McBrayer will be lucky if he gets halfway there.

"Just when we are at the cusp of putting this together so we can commute on trails, to have the feds pull the money out from under us would be tragic," McBrayer says.

Congressman John Lewis will try to get the $600 million back into the federal transportation budget before it goes to the full committee, probably the week ending July 25.

"It's obviously something we do not like," says Lewis' aide, George Deusenbury.

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