Brent Hugh, the director of the Missouri Bicycle Federation, says the group had been working all year with MoDOT and the Complete Street bill sponsor, Representative Mike Sutherland, a Republican from Warrenton. The original version of the bill would have required MoDOT to use a reasonable amount of any road funds for bike and pedestrian accommodations, like Share the Road signs and crosswalks. It was watered down to make MoDOT more comfortable and the final version got a green light in the House, passing by a 139-9 vote.
The measure went to a Senate committee last week, with cycling advocates confident that MoDOT was on board. Instead, the agency pulled a U-turn. It was an absolute and complete surprise when they came to the hearing and made it very clear that MoDOT now opposed the bill, Hugh says.
MoDOT spokesman Jeff Briggs says his agency supports bicycles and pedestrians wherever they can, but they oppose to the Complete Streets measure. MoDOT already includes community feedback in setting priorities and providing input for its projects, Briggs says. Typically, bike-ped needs rank pretty low, so were concerned that if we work this into the statutes we could end up being committed to a great deal of funding for not necessarily what the public is telling us they want.
Briggs adds that MoDOT is facing a financial crunch in the next couple years and will have to start saying no to many groups. In that environment, adding a new requirement to add a bike lane or a bike path on a street might be especially challenging, he says. But, Briggs adds, the agency promised legislators it would make sure its internal polices take note of cyclists needs.
Bike advocates dont buy that argument. Providing for cyclists and pedestrians gives taxpayers the biggest bang for their transportation bucks, Hugh says. In many communities, most roads are fairly friendly to non-motorized travel already. By far the biggest barriers to safe walking and bicycling in most Missouri cities are MoDOT roads you cant travel on them and, in some cases, you cant even cross them safely.
And when Briggs says MoDOT is already looking out for those on two wheels, many cycling advocates are more than a little skeptical. Case in point: the new Paseo Bridge. True, MoDOT did take cyclists into consideration. The agency agreed to include bike lanes on this river crossing. But only if other agencies come up with an estimated $3 million to build the ramps. Maybe thats what MoDOT meant when its administrators say they arent in favor of Complete Streets.
So when the agency holds its ceremonial ground breaking for the new Paseo Bridge at 2 p.m. this Friday, April 18, cyclists are planning a caravan to the event. To join the group, check out the meet-up details at Lets Go KC.
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