Missouri model for bike/ped success: Making Raytown a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city

The keynote presentation in this month's Missouri Safe Routes to School Coalition Teleconference was John Benson of the City of Raytown talking about "Making Raytown a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city."

Raytown started with almost no bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure. Sidewalks were sporadic and incomplete. Cattle trails marked the edges of major roads where no sidewalks existed.

The presentation is a model for other city across Missouri.  It shows a number of ideas and techniques any city can use to turn the city around and help it become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly over time. Below are the notes from John's presentation.

Making Raytown a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city

John Benson, Interim Community Development Director, City of Raytown

Recent developments in Raytown for bicycling and walking:

  • Citizen's Bicycle Task Force 8-9 years ago, created overall plan & maps, never officially adopted but much discussion
  • Downtown revitalization plan adopted several years ago, includes many bike/ped elements, sidewalks, bike parking
  • 350 Hwy planning - 35,000 average daily traffic, goes through center of city, business center, want to make it bike/ped accessible but many sceptical
  • Simple improvement for bicyclists--wide curb lanes: On 4 lane roadways, when regular street overlays and re-striping is done, the city restripes with narrower center lanes, 11 feet, and wider outer lanes (13-14 ft), wide enough to be a 'shareable lane' with bicycles.  This helps make main arterial roads more bicycle friendly and is done at no additional cost to the city. Examples: Raytown Tffy, Blue Ridge Blvd, Blue Ridge Cutoff have received this treatment.  Others will receive it as overlays happen according to the city's regular schedule.
  • Adding bike lanes: - First street w/ bike lane (59th) was originally planned as a three-lane road, changed to a two lane road with very wide lanes, the extra wide lane was striped with a shoulder to keep motor traffic away from sidewalks.  The shoulder area became a de-facto bike lane.  Again, little/no extra cost to city.  83rd Street (see below), 87th Street was designed as a 3-lane road with bike lanes, rather than a 4-lane road.  Other streets around the city that are 4-lane may be converted to the 3-lane plus bike lane configuration (road diet).
  • Community Housing study 2004-2005: the consultant identified 83rd Street as a street wide enough to stripe bike lanes for 2-2.5 miles when the street was re-striped.  The change was made.  One problem: The city needs to regularly use a street sweeper on this section, otherwise dirt/gravel/glass/debris collects.

Raytown Public Works Directors over the years have been supportive of this type of change, a big part of the city's success in this area.

Grant projects:

  • Federal Grant:   $218,000 - with city match is $360,000 to restripe Blue Ridge Blvd with bike lanes (currently 3 lanes) will be completed next year, about 2 miles.
  • Downtown streetscaping plan: $483K Transportation Enhancement Grant, $645,000 total.  Completed phase 1 by next year.  Will improve sidewalks, extend bike lanes
  • Bike/Ped Trail phase one on Hwy 350: Received grant, 10 foot multi-use trail for about 1 mile on one side of the Hwy.  Trail will be located 20-30 feet from actual traffic lanes, so well off the highway itself.  In addition, they will reconfigure shoulders & install curbs on Hwy 350 as a way to calm traffic and turn it into more of an urban arterial (vs current 'rural' configuration).
  • $475K ARRA grant: Constructed sidewalks along Blue Ridge Cutoff & Blue Ridge Blvd.  These previously had 'cow paths' connecting to transit stops and commercial areas to nearby neighborhoods.  Noticeably more people are out walking in those areas since installation of the sidewalks.

The grants have been important in accelerating the speed of change and allowing the city to do far more than it could with its own resources.  By having plans and project ideas in place, the city is able to move quickly to take advantage of grant opportunities that arise quickly.

How the city got to this point

Two keys: The City has generally stayed involved at the regional level and looked for for continuing education opportunities.

  • City has spent many years becoming involved in the various committees at the Metro Planning Organization--CMAQ Committee, Transportation Enhancements Committee, Bike/Ped Advisory Committee.  In doing that, they start to understand what the purpose of the grants are, what the best practices are, what other grants by other cities that have been successful, how the program works.
  • City has promoted continuing education: Hosted workshops, attended workshops, joined regional grant applications that generally keep staff & electeds educated about bike/ped practices and techniques topics.
  • Partnered with MARC & KCMO for a Greater KC Health Care Foundation grant to educate staff, elected officials about Liveable Streets concepts and develop some plans

Raytown's approach to adopting a Complete Streets policy: All surrounding cities have this in place, but Raytown is taking more the 'Show Me' model, where they are implementing a 'de facto' Complete Streets policy, and after elected officials and citizens see how it works, how it is affordable, how it increases the amount of biking and walking.

Having some developers who have successfully installed pieces of planned trails, sidewalks, etc, (as required by new plans & zoning/development requirements) has helped get the succeeding developers to also accept them.  It is often a question of 'how to get the ball rolling' and have a few successes to point to helps a lot.

Relationship between Public Works and Community Development: The Community Development staff have been on many of the regional committees.  It has been a good partnership between the Public Works Engineers and the Community Development planners.  All regional, neighborhood plans and zoning updates have included requirements for biking, walking, etc.  So now developments start to include their piece of the sidewalk; eventually those will all link up to create a complete system.  The city planning & zoning committee has stood behind those requirements.

City Bike Plan:  The plan created by the bike/ped task for 6=8 years ago has had a big impact on subsequent development, even though the plan was never formally adopted.  So this was a worthwhile process.

Schools:  The city has included consideration of schools and connectivity into their plans, as well as parks, commercial areas
  City has applied for SRTS grants a couple of times
  Top need right now is a particularly school with only a narrow/ditch road making impossible for students to walk safely.

Water Company Help:  City doesn't provide water service, but does work with the water companies well.  Often when the water co. puts in or replaces a water line, the water co. has finished off by putting a new sidewalk in that location (at the water co's expense!) or connecting to existing sidewalks.

Regional/Statewide/Multi-State Bike/Ped Connectivity:  Rock Island RR goes through the city, potential to connect trail on this RR right-of-way to downtown KC in one direction and to Katy Trail on the other end.  Jackson County is now negotiating with Union Pacific to purchase the rail corridor.  7-8 years ago a number of local cities formed a coalition to try to purchase the right-of-way.  Two yrs ago, UP approached the coalition with the proposal to sell the corridor, $11-$15 million dollars.  So the city/residents/electeds want to connect the city to this potential new trail backbone

Why bike/ped for the city?

Study showed 60% of residents in owner-occupied housing has lived there for more than 20 years.  So it was an older population who had lived there for many years, and a very stable & cohesive community.  But now many of these residents are retired and elderly.  So younger families are moving in to replace them--now the 5-24 yr old cohort in Raytown is larger than the regional average.  So the younger citizens/families want to have these walkable/bikeable connections, and to attract those kind of residents, Raytown needs to have those kind of amenities.

Raytown is completely landlocked and can't annex any new greenfield areas.  So improving the city is entirely a matter of retrofitting existing, already-developed areas.

Housing study done by the city:  Technology has allowed businesses to locate where they want.  So location/closeness to employment, suppliers, etc are less drivers of where residents & businesses locate.  Amenities are very much the drivers now--parks, bike/ped walking, schools - a big part of the city's economic development plan is to offer more and more of those amenities to stay vibrant and vital in attracting residents and commerce.

For more information, contact John Benson, jbenson[at]raytown.mo.us.