Blast from the past: Why Missouri River Bike/Ped Bridge at Jefferson City was so important - and why bike/ped access on ALL major river crossings is important

Back at the groundbreaking for the Pat Jones Bike/Ped Path over the Missouri River at Jefferson City in 2010, blogger Julianna Schroeder gave her impressions about why the new bike/ped connection across the river was so important--lessons that are still worth thinking about whenever we consider a major river bridge in Missouri:

This morning was the groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited pedestrian addition to the Missouri River Bridge here at Jefferson City. . .

The (former) bi-directional bike/ped path on the Jefferson City Bridge
The bi-directional bike/ped path on the Jefferson City Bridge from the early 2000s through construction of the new path in 2011. Prior to the early 2000s, bike/ped crossing of the bridge was even more harrowing.
It advances tourism in Jefferson City. It advances the connection of the Katy Trail State Park with neighboring communities. It advances safety for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as for the over 50,000 vehicle drivers that cross the river here each day.

In order to appreciate what we’re getting, you have to know what we have now. Right now, there are two bridges crossing the river—the one on the west is for southbound traffic and the one on the east is for northbound. When they built the second of these two bridges (the northbound one), back in 1991, they didn’t take possible pedestrian or bicycle traffic into account.

Meanwhile, also twenty years ago, the Katy Trail State Park was launched. Indeed, they’re celebrating this rails-to-trails park’s twentieth anniversary this month! It follows the old MKT railroad line from St. Charles clear to Clinton, Missouri. . . .

So a problem arose: Even though the city built a nice bike trail connecting the cross-state Katy Trail to a point nearer to the Missouri River Bridge, bicyclists had hell to go through before getting across the river to Jeff City proper.

And that’s bad for tourism! And it’s dangerous, any way you slice it. The temporary solution has been to add a “bike lane” to the northbound (wider) bridge. But . . . that lane must function for bicyclists traveling both directions.


The entire article is an excellent summary of the reason the Pat Jones Bike/Ped Path across the Missouri River at Jefferson City is so important.

Local leaders and advocates joined state agencies and statewide advocacy groups (including MoBikeFed) in a campaign over two decades to build support, raise funds for, and finally design the bike/ped path on the bridge that was finally completed and opened in 2011.

Photos in the article show just how bad the bridge crossing was for people who walk and bicycle--and that (very bad) situation was actually an IMPROVEMENT over the even worse river crossing situation that was in place before the early 2000s.

How the bridge impacted bicycling, walking, and trails in Jefferson City

It is interesting to note how many of the next steps we suggested for Jefferson City when the brige opened have happened since the new bike/ped path on the bridge opened in 2011:

  • X Adoption of a city Complete Streets policy
  • X Creation of citywide on-street bicycle plan
  • X Citywide bicycle map
  • Bicycle education for adults and as a regular part of school instruction
  • X Create a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee to advise the city on bicycle and pedestrian related policy, plans, and projects

    Jefferson City Missouri River Bridge - Bike/Ped Crossing today
    Jefferson City Missouri River Bridge - Bike/Ped Crossing today (opened 2011)

  • X Works towards and then apply for Bicycle Friendly Community status; set specific time-specific goals for reaching Hon. Mention, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinimum BFC levels.
  • A city-wide, comprehensive Safe Routes to School plan to help encourage more children to bicycle and walk to school and provide the sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and other routes needed
  • Dedicate a certain percentage of public works funding to bicycle and pedestrian projects (often just 1% or 2% for bicycle projects and 3-5% for pedestrian projects makes a huge difference over time)
  • X Continue to expand and connect the city's greenways system

Goals that have been accomplished, or where significant progress has been made  since 2011 are marked with an "X".  This represents really amazing progress for bicycling, walking, and trails in Jefferson City, with much more to come in the near future.

The progress isn't just because of the bridge, or because of advocacy by local citizens, MoBikeFed and our members, and our allies.  Local city staff and elected leaders, and local citizens and businesses, and stepped up in a big way to support better bicycling, walking, and trails in Jefferson City--and as a result, the city has made major progress in recent years.

But it is hard to deny that when a major asset like the Missouri River bike/ped path at Jefferson City comes online, it really lights a fire under the city and the citizens, who want to make the entire city live up to the potential created by the bike/ped river crossing.

That means making the entire city bike/ped friendly, and also connecting the entire community to the Katy Trail--and perhaps soon to the Rock Island Trail as well.

Major river bridges in Missouri - and why we spend considerable time and effort to support more, better, safer access across major barriers for people who walk and bicycle

That is one reason we spend a considerable amount of time and work advocating for major projects like bike/ped/trails river bridges. These projects help people who walk and bicycle travel safely over major barriers.  But in addition, they inspire communities and leaders to make complete connections--to make the bicycle, pedestrian, and trails system in the entire community and region live up to its promise.

Right now, MoBikeFed is working with MoDOT and community leaders to set a direction on six major river bridges that are under construction, under consideration, or recently completed:

  • Champ Clarke Mississippi River Bridge at Louisiana, MO (under construction) - this bridge will be built with dual 10-foot shoulders, which will be a boon for the thousands of bicyclists who travel across the bridge every year, and also allow some limited pedestrian traffic to destinations immediately on either side of the river.  We are disappointed the MoDOT did not give enough consideration to the need for a pedestrian walkway in this location, which has pedestrian traffic generators immediately on each side of the river.  Nevertheless, the new bridge with dual 12 foot travel lanes and dual 10 foot shoulders, is a major improvement for all bridge users, including those who walk and bicycle. 

  • MO 370 Discovery Bridge between St. Charles & St. Louis Counties (design) - Funding for retrofitting this bridge with a separated bike/ped lane was fully raised, but problems with design threatened completion of the project earlier this year.  Working with our valued partners, including Trailnet, the City of St. Charles, and MoDOT, we helped encourage all sides to find acceptable solutions and move forward with the project.  At this time it looks like major issues have been resolved and the project should move forward within the next year or two.

  • Chester, IL Mississippi River Bridge (early planning) - Right now MoDOT is in the early planning and scoping phases for this major Mississippi Bridge replacement.  The bridge is part of the TransAmerica Trail/US Bicycle Route 76 and carries a significant amount of cross-country bicycle touring traffic, as well as local traffic.  We are encouraging MoDOT and IDOT to give full consideration and full study of the needs of people who walk and bicycle on this forthcoming bridge replacement.

  • Bike/Ped accessibility on or near the I-70 Bridge at St Charles (early planning) - This bridge has been identified as a priority bike/ped connection for the region, because it connects major population centers to available and future trails on each side of the river.  However, we fear that design and maintenance consideration of the type that nearly derailed the MO 370 bridge could put this important project on hold.

    A new Missouri River bike/ped crossing opened on the Daniel Boone Bridge in 2016
    A new Missouri River bike/ped crossing opened on the Daniel Boone Bridge in 2016. The new river crossing links the Katy Trail & Chesterfield Monarch Levee Trail. Eventually a series of bridges will link continuous trails on both sides of the river throughout the St Charles/St Louis County area, and directly connect to both the Katy & the Rock Island cross-state trails.

  • Washington, MO Hwy 47 Bridge, including new Bike/Ped Path (under construction) - Connecting all Katy Trail communities to trail has been a major priority of MoBikeFed since its inception over two decades ago.  New bridges or bridge additions made those connections on the Page Ave Extension between St. Louis County & St Charles County, at Hermann, MO, and at Jefferson City.  Citizens and community leaders in Washington, as well as MoDOT officials and state and congressional leadership, got behind the idea of a safe bike/ped crossing on the new Hwy 47 Bridge at Washington in a big way.  That bridge is now under construction and will be open--with its 10-foot separated bike/ped path connecting the city of Washington to the Katy Trail--in 2018. The bridge will also play a key role in future connections between the eastern end of the forthcoming Rock Island Trail and the Katy Trail.

  • Daniel Boone Bridge across the Missouri River in St. Louis/St. Charles Counties - This new major river crossing opened in 2016, connecting the Katy Trail to the Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail.

 

Helping and encouraging Missouri communities to create and maintain a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails transportation system is one of four major goals in MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Working to create routine, safe access for people who walk and bicycle across rivers and other major barriers is a very important area of emphasis in carrying out that goal.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support helps turn our Vision into reality!

 

 

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