Forget overpriced hammers and toilet seats. Congress is going for broke with its latest boondoggle: $1 billion to get kids to walk to school.

By 2014, Congress will have spent about $800 million on grants encouraging students to walk or bike to school. The National Center for Safe Routes to School was part of the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEALU) legislation.

Sponsored by Alaska Rep. Don Young, of “bridge to nowhere” fame, SAFETEALU was packed with 7,000 earmarks costing taxpayers $24 billion. Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole summed it up as “the epitome of pork.”

Taxpayer-bankrolled Safe Routes to School grants went to bicycle rodeos, bookmarks, and marketing campaigns. Other SRTS projects include:

  • $28,634 for bicycle rodeos in Bradenton, Florida in 2007
  • $48,875 for a bicycle rodeo or bike training in Aurora, Illinois in 2007
  • $1,100 for posters and paper sneakers in Wilmington, Delaware in 2010
  • $48,009 to create “encouragement” signs, have law enforcement slow traffic, and develop safety materials for the Amish in Millersburg, Ohio in 2010. 

Ultimately, when the people who actually earn the money are in charge of how it’s spent, they don’t get stuck paying for such nonsense. The last things parents struggling to make ends meet need is higher taxes to subsidize things like $850 bookmarks. Congress should end its billion-dollar-walkathon boondoggle, or voters should tell them to take a hike.