First safe bike/ped crossing(s!) of the Missouri River in Kansas City move forward

Today a major step forward was taken in the effort to create the first good, safe bicycle and pedestrian crossings of the Missouri River in the Kansas City area.

Linda Clark and Beth Wright of MoDOT take part in the TTPC meeting Tuesday
Photo by Randy Niere
More meeting photos here.

Three important recommendations were made today at the Kansas City region's Total Transportation Policy Committee (TTPC) meeting.

First, MoDOT is proposing to retrofit the Heart of America bridge with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations (exact details to be determined later because of the intense discussion during the planning process about what is "best"). MoDOT will make a commitment to this retrofit as part of the Paseo EIS--so that is a pretty strong commitment on their part. It is essentially an agreement they are making with the Federal Highway Administration to do certain things a certain way on the Paseo project--and the HOA retrofit would be part of that agreement.

Second, TTPC voted to recommend that MoDOT include bicycle/pedestrian accommodations in the Paseo Bridge design specifications. This does not by any means guarantee that the bike/ped accommodations will be built on Paseo but (if MoDOT accepts this recommendation) this at least keeps alive the possibility of bicycle/pedestrian accommodations as part of that new bridge.

Will design-build teams from across the world who bid on the project be able to figure out how to include bicycle/pedestrian accommodations at a reasonable cost?

At least we will have a chance to find out.

Councilman John Fairfield of Kansas City spoke eloquently of the need for these accommodations and the ways they could be included in the new Paseo structure.

Councilwoman Deb Hermann of Kansas City spoke about the possibilities this would create for connections between neighborhoods (on the south side) and employment opportunities (on the north side).

Tom Coyle, Director of Planning and Development for Kansas City talked about Kansas City's upcoming Citywide Trails planning process and the need from his point of view to keep all options open for creating good, safe bicycle and pedestrian crossing points.

Darby Trotter, CEO of the Riverfront Heritage Trail, spoke about the fact that almost all major bridges nowadays include bicycle and pedestrian accommodations as a matter of course and that most design teams will be anxious to include a bicycle/pedestrian component in their bridge design.

MARC staff member Marlene Nagel summarized very well the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee's recommendation and the reasons for it.

Lee Ann Kell of MoDOT reviewed the Paseo Bicycle/Pedestrian Core Team's investigation and findings. Among these was an interesting potential location for a standalone pedestrian bridge across the river at the location of the current Town of Kansas bridge (which crosses nearby railroad tracks but not the river).

Several other TTPC members spoke favorably and at length about the need for better bicycle and pedestrian connectivity in the region and across the river in particular.

No one spoke against the general idea. The only concerns voice were related to cost of including bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on Paseo (estimated at about $6 to $9 million out of a bridge structure with total cost of about $50 to $100 million) and that is one reason the committee voted to recommend moving bike/ped forward into the design phase only and not necessarily committing to both design and construction at this time.

Another possibility is that the Paseo bridge may be built so that bicycle/pedestrian accommodations may be added later with relative ease and at a lower expense.

Full text of the Mid-America Council Total Transportation Policy Committee (TTPC) recommendation:
1. We recommend that high quality, safe, practical and appropriate bicycle pedestrian accommodations be on or adjacent to the Paseo from Front Street
to 16th Street, and that this be explicitly included in the RFP/RFQ for design.

2. We recognize that the Heart of America is currently an option for bicycle/pedestrian access across the Missouri River and needs significant improvements to increase the safety of all users; and therefore we recommend the necessary improvement be made by MoDOT as soon as practicable.

3. MARC and MoDOT will work cooperatively with other appropriate stakeholders to further explore some of the crossings evaluated in this study as well as others.
The the resolution was passed by a voice vote with no dissenting votes heard.

The next step is the recommendation will be forwarded to the Mid-America Regional Council's board. Then MoDOT will make its suggested changes to the Paseo Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will then be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for approval.

In short, the first safe bicycle/pedestrian crossing(s) of the Missouri River in the Kansas City area are one step closer to reality.

Thousands of emails, phone calls, and letters written by bicyclists and pedestrians from Kansas City and around the two-state area have provided the background that made all of this possible. With your help we are building real community support for make our cities, our regions, and our states better, safer, and more accessible for bicycling and walking.

See a map of the area here.