A way forward for KCMO bike lanes?

Last night KCMO’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) heard a proposal from the Public Works Department to accelerate two long-stalled bikeway projects. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the City Council’s Finance Committee will debate the next steps. That meeting is at 8:30 am on the 10th Floor of City Hall.

Public Works Plan

  1. Paint the Downtown Bike Loop this fall, using local funds instead of the long-delayed federally-funded project funds. The 18th Street segment from Grand to the Jazz District and beyond will be delayed until 2018 because the Water Department is replacing a water main under 18th Street in the spring.
  2. The Armour/Benton bikeway would be included with a bigger repaving project that will be bid to contractors in October and painted in Spring 2018.

BPAC’s recommendation to City Council

BPAC advises City Council to take the following actions to implement several long-delayed bikeway projects:

  1. Appropriate local funding to immediately construct the Downtown Loop and Neighborhood Connector. A scheduled major water main project may delay construction of 18th Street. Pending further detail, BPAC tentatively is supportive of this delay.
  2. Appropriate local funding to immediately construct the Armour/Benton Blvd. Bikeways.
  3. Work to identify a pathway to convert the Grand buffered bike lane to the “Making Grand Grand” vision before Grand requires re-painting or re-surfacing.

Our thoughts

While there are several compromises with this plan, it is the most practical way forward to getting some paint on the pavement. However:

Armour/Benton is the longest delayed project.

This Midtown and East Side pair of streets was awarded funding in 2010, two years before the Downtown projects. If the City Council is going to accelerate any project, we assert that Armour/Benton should be first to move forward.

The East Side gets no bike lanes this year.

With the 18th Street portion of the Downtown project and the entire Armour/Benton project scheduled for 2018, it means that no bike lanes will be added in the 3rd District this year.

Grand Boulevard design is not the modern, innovative cycletrack that the community wants.
The “Making Grand Grand” project envisioned a two-way protected cycletrack, but the City instead designed conventional buffered bike lanes. The years-long delay could have been used to design a modern, state of the art facility. The city still needs a specific and credible plan for “Making Grand Grand” in the next few years, before the new bike lanes are due to be repainted.

Going forward

1. Making Grand Grand
Moving forward with the planned buffered bike lanes on Grand is not the top-of-the-line product. However, installing the paint-only lanes ensures that the two years it will take to complete final design and engineering of the two-way cycletrack will be spent with a road-dieted, decent buffered bike lane. Painted stripes have a two-year lifespan. So by the time the paint begins to fade, the City can be mobilized with a complete overhaul of Grand complete with the “Making Grand Grand” vision for a cycletrack. Another thing to remember is that Grand is on the GO Bond list.

Actions we recommend:

  • Identify a funding source to complete engineering of the Making Grand Grand cycletrack
  • Coordinate this effort with the KCATA as they make final plans on upgrading major bus stops on Grand in the next few years.
  • Build out the final design by appropriating the GO Bond funding that is promised for Grand.

2. Project management and accountability
There have been a series of problems with managing and delivering projects, and with City Council insisting on staff accountability for delivering those projects. An extra complicating factor in Kansas City is that the responsibility for bike infrastructure is spread across five silos within the City Hall organization: Public Works, Parks and Recreation, City Planning, Water Services, and the City Manager’s Office.

Actions we recommend:

  • Align the City’s internal structure to prioritize strategic transportation planning and innovative project delivery.
  • City Council must hold staff accountable for transportation leadership and execution/deliverables.

3. Relying on federal grants instead of investing local funds in bike infrastructure
Previous City Councils have refused to budget dedicated funds, so city staff did a great job obtaining federal grants to pay for bike lane projects that most of our peer cities pay for locally. Now that the city is finally trying to complete these projects they are learning that the amount of federal funds is insufficient and the red tape can be very burdensome.

Actions we recommend:

  • Strengthen the existing but weak Complete Streets policy to ensure the $450 million infrastructure bond for streets and bridges is used strategically to rebuild Complete Streets with bike lanes.
  • Prioritize implementation of the new bike master plan by committing to investing at least $5 million a year in bike lanes.

What you can do now

  • Attend the Finance Committee meeting tomorrow at 8:30 am on the 10th Floor of City Hall. Opportunities for public testimony are available; if you’re unable to attend, you may submit testimony via the City Clerk’s website.
  • Contact your City Council representatives, the City Manager, and the Mayor. They serve YOU – make your voice heard.
  • Become a member of BikeWalkKC. As a member-supported nonprofit advocacy organization, our job is to listen, inform, and advocate for better biking and walking in Kansas City. Our staff are active living policy and transportation experts who work across sectors with electeds, influencers, fellow advocacy organizations, and other organizations working to improve health around the Kansas City region. Your membership enables us to have a greater voice in city halls across the metro, to better serve you and your neighborhood.
Posted in News.