City Council sends $800 million infrastructure bond to voters with big sidewalk and bike lane improvements

After a day of intense debate yesterday the KCMO City Council finally agreed on and unanimously approved an infrastructure program to send to voters on April 4th. Despite heavy pressure from the highway builders for a roads-first approach, the final plan that emerged yesterday has the potential to be transformational for walking, biking, and neighborhood quality of life.

BikeWalkKC spent much of 2016 working on this issue with diverse coalition of community partners that included neighborhood leaders, The Whole Person, Hope Faith Ministries, the Mattie Rhodes Center, and the Front Porch Alliance. Strong leadership inside City Hall included Mayor Sly James, City Manager Troy Schulte, and Councilmembers Scott Wagner, Jolie Justus, Kevin McManus, and Scott Taylor.

1. $150 million for neighborhood sidewalks
Repair and replace sidewalks in residential areas not on the main streets, mostly in front of individual homes. This will provide $7.5 million a year in brand new funding for sidewalks. BikeWalkKC is working with city leaders to develop a process for prioritizing sidewalk repairs over the next 20 years, focusing on criteria like poverty, access to bus stops, and Safe Routes to School. $150 million is a small but important first step towards the city’s $1 billion sidewalk backlog.

2. Sidewalk funding policy change
The city will take over a significant portion of the cost of sidewalks, lifting a big burden off of homeowners – especially those on lower or fixed incomes. Homeowners currently paying assessments on sidewalks repairs will have that debt forgiven. This is a fundamental shift in philosophy and policy. 

3. $450 million for street repairs, including Complete Streets
Dozens of main arterial streets will be repaired, resurfaced, or rebuilt. This work will include repair of adjacent sidewalks on the main roads, and the inclusion of bike lanes on many streets. Most of this money will be spent on repairing existing streets. Only a couple new streets are on the list of potential projects.

4. ADA Improvements
Both city streets and public buildings like community centers and parks will get additional funds to speed up the city’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, improving mobility for people of all abilities.

5. Workforce development
Construction projects in this program will include significant job training and workforce development opportunities for local residents, following the model recently established when the construction of new sidewalks at Maplewood Elementary trained new workers in the construction trades. The sidewalk projects in particular will have a positive impact on small, family, and women/minority owned construction companies.

Other parts of the plan include flood control improvements, a new animal shelter, and other improvements to city buildings.

Next Steps

KCMO voters will decide April 4th for a small property tax increase to fund the infrastructure program. In the coming weeks an election campaign will kick off and we will start hearing more details about the plan. City staff and council members will likely be visiting neighborhood associations and other groups to talk about the plan and the election. Contact us at info@bikewalkkc.org if you hear about a presentation or have questions.

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