COLUMBIA — Two groups responsible for ranking possible ways to spend a $5.1 million federal grant have put trail connections at the top of their list of proposed projects.
Columbia's Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission and Parks and Recreation Department are the final groups to rank the proposals for spending the supplementary grant awarded to GetAbout Columbia earlier this year.
The Parks and Recreation Commission and the GetAbout Columbia Nonmotorized Advisory Committee weighed in earlier, giving bike trails and sidewalk improvements the highest rankings.
The City Council — which will make the final decision about how to spend the money — won't receive any recommendations for new projects until 2012, because there are still unfinished GetAbout Columbia projects left over from the first round of funding. The $5.1 million grant supplements a $22 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration that the city received in 2006 for bicycle and pedestrian projects designed to reduce reliance on vehicles.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission
Ted Curtis, GetAbout Columbia's program manager, spent about 25 minutes explaining the proposed projects to the Bicycle and Pedestrian commissioners at their meeting Wednesday night. He asked each of them to rank the projects.
The commission's top recommendation was phase three of the Hinkson Creek Trail project, which would connect Stephens Lake Park to Clark Lane. The estimated cost for the project is $325,800, according to a budget prepared by GetAbout Columbia.
Commissioner Michael Burden ranked the Hinkson Creek Trail project as a high priority. He said he was looking for projects that would serve the most people.
"I just thought that it would connect the area," he said. "If that trail's not there, to get from one of those places to the other, it's sort of precarious in terms of traffic.
"There are a lot of people that use Stephens Lake Park. Once you get on the Hinkson trail there, you can go a long ways back."
The commission's second-highest recommendation was the Clark Lane sidewalk project, which would build a sidewalk from Ballenger Lane to Woodland Springs Court, and from Hinkson Creek to Towne Drive. The project would cost $520,000.
The commission also considered projects added to the list after other committees had made their recommendations, including a trail from Rock Bridge High School to Cosmo-Bethel Park and an expansion of the bike boulevard.
Other projects considered only by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission included sidewalk repairs on West Broadway and the construction of pedestrian islands on Providence Road.
Parks and Recreation Department
The Parks and Recreation Department recommended that the money go toward the Cosmo Park trail connection, said Park Services Manager Mike Griggs.
This project would cost nearly $1.2 million, and would connect the Bear Creek Trail at Creasy Springs Road through the park to a diverging diamond intersection planned for Stadium Boulevard near I-70.
After parks department members discussed the pros and cons of proposed projects and ranked their top choices, the Cosmo Park trail connection was the only project that appeared on everyone's list.
The proposed connection would give people who live south of I-70 a way to cross the interstate and provide a link to the other side of Stadium Boulevard.
"I live out by Scott Boulevard, and when I ride my bike to my son's soccer games or a special event in the park, I'm not going to go down Stadium Boulevard because it's not a safe route," Griggs said. "This would allow me not to have to get on Stadium."
Griggs added that his department's current recommendation is contingent on the building of the diverging diamond interchange.
"If that's not happening, that's not our No. 1 choice," Griggs said.