Bike/ped access on the Missouri River Bridge at Washington: Why it's important, Missouri's progress on bike/ped access on major river bridges

Creating a safe bicycle-pedestrian connection between the Katy Trail and the City of Washington when the new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River is constructed has been high on MoBikeFed's priority list for some time. 

Hwy 47 bridge at Washington, MO
Hwy 47 bridge at Washington, MO

In fact, the project was rated among the highest in the areas of Need and Significance of all the 250 projects in the Missouri High Priority Bicycle, Pedestrian, and ADA List.

The City and MoDOT are moving forward with the Highway 47 and--as promised by MoDOT Director Kevin Keith to Bicycle & Pedestrian Day at the Capitol participants in 2012--plans for a bicycle and pedestrian path as part of the bridge have been part of the scope of the project from the beginning.

Recently USDOT opening another round of TIGER transportation grant applications--a fairly new transportation funding program that has been very friendly for communities looking to improve multimodal transportation connections. Many Missouri communities and agencies are applying for the grants, including Hwy 47 bridge coalition.

MoBikeFed is very pleased to be able to write letters of support for grant applications that appropriately incorporate bicycling and walking.  Below is our letter of support for the Hwy 47 project--which tells a lot about why the Hwy 47 bridge is an important bike/ped connection, but also details information and history about the progress Missouri has recently made in creating good, safe connections for bicyclists and pedestrians across the Missouri River across the state.

Re: MoDOT Request for TIGER IV Grant for New Route 47 Missouri River Bridge

May 14th, 2013

Dear Secretary LaHood:

I am writing in support of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Application for a TIGER Discretionary Grant for the new Missouri Highway 47 Bridge. 

Because the current bridge is in a key position to serve a large number of statewide and national bicycle and pedestrian routes and trails, because the current bridge is so difficult and dangerous for bicycling and walking, and because the new bridge will include a separated, safe path for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Missouri River, this is an extremely important project for members and supporters of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

The bridge is important to Missouri’s bicycle and pedestrian transportation system for these reasons:

  • Because of the bridge’s location along or on several statewide and nationwide bicycle and pedestrian routes and trails, it will create a key bicycle/pedestrian connection of local, regional, statewide, and nationwide importance.
  • The current bridge is the only possible Missouri River crossing for bicyclists and pedestrians between Hermann and St. Charles, a distance of 61 miles, and is currently often used by bicyclists, even though it is extremely dangerous.
  • It creates an important intermodal connection between the Katy Trail on the north side of the river and the Amtrak Station to the south.
  • Creating a bicycle/pedestrian crossing on the Highway 47 Bridge was rated as one of the highest priorities in our recent Missouri High Priority Bicycle/Pedestrian/ADA Projects Lists, which involved input from dozens of agencies and organizations across Missouri.

Regional, Statewide, and Nationwide Importance

The Highway 47 Bridge is especially important for those of our members who walk and bicycle locally.  But the project is also of very high importance for regional, statewide, and even national bicycle, walking, and trail connections. Missouri is a national hub of trails and bicycle routes and the Highway 47 Bridge plays a key role in that system. Currently, because the bridge is so narrow and includes no facilities for bicycling or walking—not even a shoulder—the bridge is an impediment to safe bicycle and pedestrian travel and a problem spot in the local, statewide, and national bicycle, pedestrian, and trail routes that it serves. 

This bridge serves as a key connection for the following designated statewide and national bicycle, pedestrian, and/or trail routes: 

  • Katy Trail (statewide, 238 miles east/west St Charles to Clinton; connects the Katy Trail to the City of Washington on the other side of the river)
  • Quad States Trail (multi-state, east/west Illinois to Nebraska; connects the Trail to the City of Washington on the other side of the river
  • Adventure Cycling Association's Great Rivers Bicycle Route (national, north/south Muscatine, IA, to Baton Rouge, LA; the bridge forms a portion of this route and is currently one of the most difficult/dangerous bridge crossings on this multi-state trail)
  • Adventure Cycling Association's Lewis & Clark Bicycle Route (national, east/west Hartford, IL, to Seaside, OR; connects the Route across the Missouri River to the city of Washington)
  • American Discovery Trail (national, east/west Lewes, DE, to San Francisco, CA; connects the Trail across the Missouri River to the City of Washington) 

Fixing a difficult and dangerous but much-needed river crossing – the only crossing in 61 miles for pedestrians and bicyclists

For the east/west routes and trails through this area, the Highway 47 bridge project will create the only safe, accessible bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the Missouri River between Hermann (27 miles to the west) and St Charles (34 miles to the east).  Because there are very few towns of any size or services—lodging, restaurants, shopping, medical care—on the north side of the river, the bridge is quite literally a lifeline between these trails and routes and the city of Washington, which has all of these services.  That means that the bridge creates the only link to much-needed services for a stretch of approximately 61 miles.

For the north/south routes, the route through Washington provides the most attractive bicycle route through the entire eastern half of Missouri—but the Highway 47 Bridge, with its length, grade, narrow lanes, and lack of shoulders, is by far the most difficult and dangerous spot for bicyclists on this entire route.

The difficulty and danger of this bridge for those of us who bicycle and walk cannot be overstated.  The bridge is very long, about 2000 feet from approach to approach, and has a steep grade, very narrow lanes, high traffic speeds, a fairly high amount of traffic, and no shoulder.  The current railings are completely insufficient for the safety of people who walk and bicycle and do not meet current design safety standards for pedestrians or bicyclists.  The only place for a bicyclist to ride on this bridge is smack in the middle of the travel lane and there is no room for emergency maneuvering or to allow anyone to pass. 

Despite these tremendous difficulties and dangers, the bridge is very commonly used by bicyclists! The bridge is the only crossing between the Katy Trail, which has over 500,000 annual users, and the City of Washington, the only city of any size for many miles.  So despite the difficulties and dangers of crossing the bridge, it is in fact used by bicyclists on a daily basis throughout the Katy Trail riding season.

The bridge in its current condition is very narrow and intimidating for pedestrians and so, as far as we know, it is rarely or never used by pedestrians.  The new bridge, with its safe and protected bicycle/pedestrian path, will create excellent pedestrian access in a place where none currently exists.

Intermodal connection – Katy Trail to Amtrak

Because Washington has an Amtrak station, the bridge is especially important in making the multi-modal connection between Amtrak and all of the above national bicycle routes.

Many Katy Trail users created a multi-modal trip by taking the trail in one direction and Amtrak in the other.  Currently, there are excellent Amtrak-Katy Trail connections at Hermann, Jefferson City, and Sedalia.  The creation of another safe, convenient Amtrak-Katy Trail link at Washington will strengthen this multi-modal connection immensely.

An identified statewide priority by bicycle and pedestrian groups

Creating good, safe bicycle and pedestrian connections between the Katy Trail and nearby communities was identified as one of the top priorities in the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation’s 2007 Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.  In addition, creating safe bicycle and pedestrian access across major barriers like the Missouri River was identified as a top priority. 

Hwy 47 bridge at Washington, MO
Hwy 47 bridge at Washington, MO

At that time, only two safe, accessible Missouri River crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians existed in Missouri, at Hwy 5 at Boonville and the Page Avenue Extension at St. Charles. Since that time, the following safe and accessible Missouri River crossings have been created for bicyclists and pedestrians:

 

Bridge

City

River

Trail

Notes

Heart of America Bridge

Kansas City, Missouri

Missouri River

 

Separated bike/ped path

Chouteau Bridge

Kansas City, Missouri

Missouri River

 

Separated bike/ped path and bike lanes

Hwy 13  Bridge

Lexington

Missouri River

 

Accommodation on shoulders

Hwy 54 Bridge

Jefferson City

Missouri River

Katy Trail connection

Cantilevered separated bike/ped path

Hwy 19 Bridge

Hermann

Missouri River

Katy Trail connection

Separated bike/ped path

U.S. 59/Amelia Earhardt Bridge

Atchison, KS – Lewis & Clark State Park, MO

Missouri River

 

Accommodation on wide shoulder

I-64/Boone Bridge

Chesterfield - Weldon Springs

Missouri River

Katy Trail connection

Separated bike/ped path (in construction)

I-70/St Charles

St. Charles

Missouri River

Katy Trail/ Riverwoods Trail

Separated bike/ped path (in study/scoping)

 

This leaves the Highway 47 Bridge as the only remaining Katy Trail-Missouri River bridge that does not safely accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians—and in fact, one of the few remaining bridges over the Missouri River in the state of Missouri that does not accommodate bicycle and walking traffic in some fashion.

In 2010, the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation worked with dozens of organizations, groups, and agencies across the state to identify the very highest priority bicycle, pedestrian, and ADA projects in the state.  In that statewide High Priority Bike/Ped/ADA Projects last year, creating bicycle/pedestrian access on the Hwy 47 bridge scored among the highest of over 250 projects submitted in the categories of Need and Significance.

In 2013, MoDOT is asking for citizen input for top-priority projects from across the state as part of its Missouri On the Move long-range planning effort. As part of this effort, the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation is collecting high-priority statewide bicycle and pedestrian projects and the Hwy 47 bike/ped connection has been nominated.  This is currently an ongoing project and the final prioritization has not been completed, but the Hwy 47/Missouri River Bridge project is certain to rank among the highest statewide bike/ped priorities again this year.

We believe this is a project of very great need and very great significance to people who bicycle and walk in Missouri. We hope you will give your favorable consideration to this grant application.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brent Hugh

Executive Director

Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation

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