COLUMBIA — An estimated $6 million in federal money for projects to promote bicycling and walking is on its way to Columbia.
"It’s in the federal legislation that we may get more money," GetAbout Columbia coordinator Ted Curtis said. "We’re waiting on an official notice before we do any budgeting.”
Though the Federal Highway Administration has not yet disclosed the exact amount of the grant, Curtis expects to receive official notice within the next month. When approved, the additional money will be distributed throughout two years.
Several sidewalks, bike paths and trails that were omitted from the original program are being reconsidered by the City Council, Curtis said.
Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition, an alternative transportation advocacy group and contractor for GetAbout Columbia, said the area spanning from East Campus to Hickson Creek to Old 63 needs additional biking and walking paths more than any part of Columbia.
"People who live on the east side, at the moment, they only have a choice from Stadium or Broadway, neither of which are convenient or safe," Thomas said. "In my opinion, this project will create more mode shift, per dollar spent, than any other project that I’ve seen talked about."
The project was initially part of the original $22 million grant but eventually was eliminated because city planners and residents of the Bluffdale neighborhood couldn't agree on a route. Although Thomas said he was disappointed about that, he feels GetAbout Columbia has been a huge success.
"There’s been approximately doubling and tripling in some areas of the number of non-motorized journeys based on telephone surveys and physical counts at intersections," Thomas said.
Former Mayor Darwin Hindman is happy about the news.
"It’s a great program, and I think it’s terrific that extra money is coming in,” Hindman said. "Dealing with the bureaucracy has been time consuming, so the extra money is needed to get the buying power that was originally anticipated. This fully funds (the project) as originally planned."
Columbia received $22 million during the past four years as one of four cities selected to participate in a Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, which provides funding for projects intended to promote bicycling, walking and other forms of alternative transportation.
The city this fall will begin tracking the effectiveness of the program and will present the results to the Federal Highway Administration next year.