COLUMBIA — The city has landed an additional $5.9 million in federal funds to spend on bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
The grant, awarded to the city in July, supplements a $22 million federal grant Columbia received in 2006 for trails and other projects designed to provide alternatives to driving.
Ideas for how the money will be spent include GetAbout Columbia project proposals that couldn't be financed with the original $22 million.
"It would kind of end up accomplishing what we were hoping we would accomplish with the original money," said former Mayor Darwin Hindman, who heads up the GetAbout Columbia advisory committee. "The money didn't go as far as we had hoped that it would."
Columbia is one of four local governments participating in the non-motorized transportation initiative. The others are Marin County, Calif.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Sheboygan, Wis. All automatically received the extra grant money when Congress continued with the current highway law, rather than passing a new bill, Ted Curtis, GetAbout Columbia program manager said.
There are about 15 working ideas on a list of ways to spend the $5.9 million. The total estimated cost for projects on the list is $7.76 million, not including costs to acquire easements.
Hindman said he thinks the working ideas primarily came from the Columbia City Council's plans for the $22 million. Even so, there's still room for public input.
"I don't know what the odds are of somebody coming up with an idea that hasn't already been considered," Hindman said, "but if somebody has a really good idea, naturally, we want to know about it."
There are two high-priority projects on the list: Manor Drive sidewalk from Broadway to Rollins on the east side and Fairview Drive sidewalk from Broadway to Highland on the east side. Because the city did enough work on them previously, federal guidelines require that the projects are completed within 10 years, Curtis said in an email.
Major connectivity project suggestions include linking Spring Valley Road and Rockcreek Drive neighborhoods to County House Trail and connecting Hominy Branch Trail to Hinkson Creek Trail and Shepard Boulevard neighborhood.
The city Public Works Department is taking recommendations from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Parks Department and the GetAbout Columbia advisory committee. Most commissions have yet to decide which recommendations they favor.
Senior Planner Mitch Skov said the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission first saw the list of suggestions at its August meeting and will likely give it a closer look during the commission's next meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 in Conference Room 1B at City Hall.
Tammy Miller, spokeswoman for the city Parks and Recreation Department, said the Parks and Recreation Commission plans to look at the ideas during its Sept. 15 meeting, which is at 7 p.m. at the Activity and Recreation Center.
The GetAbout Columbia advisory committee hasn't scheduled a meeting to discuss the project list, Hindman said, and he's open to suggestions.
“I want to see those things that will do the most to provide interconnectivity and will serve the most people,” he said. “I don’t have any particular pet project at the moment, but I want to evaluate the ideas as they come in.”
Recommendations should be gathered by the end of September. After screening, some are expected to be presented to city council in October or November, Curtis said.
If community members would like to make recommendations, they can contact Curtis via the city’s website, Skov said.