Effort to provide for bicycle/pedestrian travel on new MO River bridge in KC reaches peak

The Kansas City Star today covered the effort of area bicycle, pedestrian, and civic groups, including the Missouri Bicycle Federation, to encourage MoDOT and local cities, counties, and other agencies to provide for the first safe bicycle and pedestrian crossing points in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Page Avenue Extension, St. Charles, MO

In 2 minutes you can send MoDOT on this topic here.
MoDOT is building a new river bridge to handle I-29/I-35 freeway traffic.

Because of community feedback as part of the Paseo planning process, the FHWA has required MoDOT to build a river crossing as part of the Paseo project.

MoDOT's recommendation is to retrofit the nearby Heart of America bridge with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Area groups, including the Missouri Bicycle Federation, believe that the Heart of America retrofit will be an excellent accommodation. Heart of America has the potential to give very good connectivity to area streets on both sides of the river and also to the levee areas.

However, adding accommodations to the Heart of America bridge does not replace the need for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in the corridor that is served by the Paseo bridge.

Because of the freeway itself and nearby railroad tracks, nearby areas including neighborhoods, planned neighborhoods, industrial areas, casinos, and hospitals are far better served by a facility on or near the Paseo bridge itself.

Calculations by the Missouri Bicycle Federation show that bicycle and pedestrian trips involving these destinations, in the heart of Kansas City and North Kansas City, will be extended by more than a mile if bicycle/pedestrian accommodation is not included in the Paseo bridge itself.

In a low-density rural area a lower level of bicycle/pedestrian connectivity and lengthy detours may be necessary. But in a city that wants to become world class, in the very core of the urban center, it is not.

The Kansas City Star:
“We’re real excited about the Heart of America option,” Hugh said. “It’s something we’ve needed for years.”

Hugh’s excitement was tempered by the Department of Transportation’s refusal to recommend adding a bike lane to the Paseo Bridge.

The roughly 50-year-old bridge will be replaced or rehabbed when Interstate 29/35 is widened from the Northland to the downtown loop.

For more than a year, cyclists and pedestrians have sought a dedicated lane on the Paseo Bridge, saying they don’t have a safe way to cross the river.

They argued that any new crossing — especially one that could last 100 years like the Paseo Bridge — should accommodate all forms of transportation. . . .

State highway engineers have been reluctant to recommend a bike lane on the Paseo Bridge. They say it would be unsafe to put one so near a busy interstate. They also said they don’t think the Paseo Bridge provides the best connection because it serves a Northland industrial area that is crowded with trucks.

The Heart of America Bridge, which carries Missouri 9 traffic across the river, links the kinds of neighborhoods that generate walkers and bikers, the engineers say.

South of the river are the City Market and residential lofts, for example, while the Heart of America Bridge connects to a shopping and restaurant area in North Kansas City.

“There are destinations that somebody would want to go to,” said Linda Clark, assistant district engineer in MoDOT’s Kansas City office.

The highway department won’t rule out a bike lane on the Paseo Bridge, but officials say it would cost $6 million to $9.5 million — two or three times the cost of building one on the Heart of America Bridge.
The Missouri Bicycle Federation has many times provided documentation showing that separated bicycle/pedestrian facilities on interstate bridges are entirely safe. MoDOT and the FHWA have been unable to provide any documentation to the contrary.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation has provided evidence that there are many important origins and destinations in the corridor served by the Paseo Bridge that will be better served by the Paseo Bridge than by other facilities. MoDOT and other agencies have been unable to provide any contrary evidence, other than to point out that there are even more origins and destinations served by the Heart of America bridge.

In a major metropolitan area like Kansas City, this should not be an either/or question.

A bicycle/pedestrian crossing on Heart of America will provide excellent connections.

But Paseo will provide important connections as well.

Both are needed.

And if the bicycle/pedestrian connection is not built as part of Paseo up front, experience says it will never by constructed there.

And Paseo is designed to be a 50 to 100 year bridge.