How do we carve up $25 million in pathways?

Work begins tonight on a bike, pedestrian, wheelchair network.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Columbia will soon have $25 million to spend on a citywide network of pedestrian, bicycle and wheelchair pathways. For now, city officials are unsure about how the money will be distributed, overseen and spent. The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission will meet tonight to discuss the issue.

“Very little is known at this point about how the money will be administered,” said Frederick Schmidt, secretary of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission.

Mitch Skov, a city planner, said he expected multiple city departments would be involved.

“We’re waiting for direction,” he said.

Possible directions include creating a new advisory committee or hiring a bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, said Mayor Darwin Hindman.

“There needs to be a tremendous amount of community input,” Hindman said.

Columbia was among four communities in the country selected for a non-motorized transportation pilot project, which is part of a federal highway bill that passed through Congress this summer. The mayor said the primary goal of the project is to reduce traffic congestion.

“As we build roads, they typically soon fill up again, so it is important to look at all strategies,” Hindman said.

Nonmotorized transportation is one alternative.

“We hope to entice people to take trips under three miles by bike rather than using their cars,” said Hindman, who makes his 2 1/2-mile commute by bike most days.

Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition, which advocates for pedestrians, wheelchair users and bicyclists, said he hopes the project will improve sidewalks near Columbia’s schools and build sidewalks in neighborhoods that don’t have any.

“We could see significant increases in the number of kids walking to school,” Thomas said.

The mayor said he hoped to see more safe and convenient routes to schools, employers, recreation and shopping areas, and he called the pilot project a great opportunity for MU to get involved.

“I think the university should work hard to get faculty, staff and students interested in riding and walking to and around campus,” Hindman said.

The pilot project will require detailed recordkeeping, the mayor said. Based on its progress and results, the city will submit an initial report in 2007 and a final report in 2010.

“Part of the justification for the program is to see what kind of impact an increased pedestrian-bicycle network will have on the transportation system,” Skov said.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission will meet at 7 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of the Daniel Boone building.

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