$50 million in TIGER transportation grants for KC, but strong KC bike/ped application left out

Wednesday U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in Kansas City to announce $1.5 billion in federal transportation grants.

The grants highlight a new approach to evaluating transportation projects and funding that incorporates far more emphasis on creating community and livability rather than simply maximum automobile throughput.

This emphasis is clear upon viewing the national list of projects selected (PDF file), which includes many transit projects, freight rail, an integrated bike/ped network in Philadelphia, ports, multi-modal centers, as well as plenty of highways and bridges.

The League of American Bicyclists lists the bicycle and pedestrian-related projects that were funded and discusses them in some detail.

Missouri's largest award--and one of the largest in the nation--was for two projects centered on the city's Green Impact Zone.  One will improve roads, intersections, and Kansas City's Green Impact Zoneinfrastructure through the 150-block area, including $8 million to update, improve, or add sidewalks.  The other will add transit-related infrastructure to key transit routes through the Kansas City area, including transit shelters, sidewalks leading to transit stops, crosswalks, and other infrastructure.

Missouri also received money for the Bella Vista Bypass (AR & MO).  MoDOT's major proposal, $200 million for truck-only lanes on I-70, was not funded.

Though 2 projects, $50 million total, were funded in Kansas City's TIGER application, the regional application originally included six projects.  One of them was a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan that would have encompassed the entire city, very much in the style of Columbia's non-motorized pilot project.

As Eric Rogers, writing on KCBike.info, points out, "The total exclusion of bicycling is surprising since the bike/ped component had by far the greatest return on investment, economic impact, VMT reduction, and CO2 savings of any other project."

A KCStar editorial points out that getting knocked out of the way for "something more important" is not exactly a new experience for Kansas City's bicycle & pedestrian plans:

It's not often that you can combine these two sorts of thoughts, but Kansas City missed out Wednesday when getting a $50 million transportation grant.

How did the city miss out? Because, as we've come to expect here, bikes and pedestrians were cast aside.

This city cries out for better and safer bike and pedestrian facilities, and this plan, calling for $12 million, had it all. . . . 

But what the failure of this plan does is point out the failure of regional governments (barring Johnson County, must add that) to act on creating what for the past several decades has been indentified as one of the most sought after amenities by potential new residents, and is certainly one of the area's greatest failings.

Now, will the region have the gumption, and cash, to put forward the money to fund this sort of ambitious project on its own? It's very doubtful, as this region has ignored similar and good plans for decades.

But, as the proposal noted, that's a real shame. For while $12 million is a lot of cash, by accepted measuring sticks, the new paths and routes would more than pay for themselves, each year.

According to the grant application, these were the benefit calculations, per year, of the bike and pedestrian plan, using standard means of computing value:

Air pollution reduction (bike and pedestrian combined): $608,087

Combined bike and pedestrian safety (meaning savings on avoiding injury and death): $11,447,243

Health (savings in health care costs from increased physical activity): Bikes $2,035,188, Pedestrians $235,433.

Recreation benefit: Bikes $17,879,781, Pedestrians $4,155,875.

So, count me disappointed that bike and pedestrian needs weren't met with this grant. And count me as doubtful that area city's, including Kansas City, will step up and do the smart thing and go ahead with this plan anyway.

But I sure hope, on the second part, that I'm wrong.

If you'd like to encourage Kansas City's bicycle and pedestrian plan--envisioned since the mid 1970s but never actually put into action--to become reality now, a quick phone call or email to these offices would help a lot:

Sending each of those leaders a copy of the KCStar editorial with a note saying you agree with it, would be an effective message.