City of Owensville awarded two $10,000 DHSS grants to develop ‘livable street plan’ for walking, bike routes

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 1/12/22

As Owensville city officials make plans for the eventual development of a walking and biking trail through town following acceptance last fall by Missouri State Parks of the Rock Island railbed, …

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City of Owensville awarded two $10,000 DHSS grants to develop ‘livable street plan’ for walking, bike routes

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As Owensville city officials make plans for the eventual development of a walking and biking trail through town following acceptance last fall by Missouri State Parks of the Rock Island railbed, $20,000 in grant funds have been awarded to the city for helping create a “Livable Street Plan.”

Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services sought seven communities with populations under 20,000 residents which were interested in making improvements for bicycle and pedestrian routes connecting users with everyday destinations such as stores, waterparks, playgrounds, and schools. The city received a $10,000 grant in the fall of 2020 to help with “future development and planning” and another $10,000 award was announced in November 2021.

“It’s for future development and planning for creating a livable street plan,” said local bicycling enthusiast and retired educator Chrysa Niewald. 

She’s taken on the role as the city’s “champion” for the project. The engineering firm helping prepare the report on the city’s behalf has worked with trail development efforts across the nation, according to Niewald.

She said the engineering portion of the grant award is designed to develop a “livable street” plan for future improvements to the city’s often patchwork collection of sidewalks. Entire blocks of sidewalks are absent in several corridors which can be designated as “activity-friendly routes.” 

This could include connecting a south-to-north street like South Cuba with Highway 28 into the downtown business district or pedestrians and bicyclists could continue on Memorial Park and the waterpark.

“Activity-friendly routes refer to direct and convenient connections that offer protection from cars, making it easier to cross the street and reach different locations,” according to the Active Living Community of Practice Funding application. “They connect at least two everyday destinations and include four modes of active transportation: bicycles, pedestrian, multi-use paths, and public transit.”

Niewald said the plan is to “extend and develop pedestrian and biking routes from residential areas to businesses and recreational locations.”

Part of the grant includes funds for marking designated pedestrian and biking routes with paint and templated road markings. Niewald said the intent is to create “low-speed shared streets” with signed and protected bicycle lanes. Infrastructure improvements to sidewalks and intersections is designed to produce a “context-sensitive traffic calming” in selected areas.

The South Cuba thoroughfare connecting the east end of the Landwehr subdivision to Highway 28 and downtown is, as mentioned, a patchwork of connected sidewalks and sections where none are present on one side for three consecutive blocks. The west side of South Cuba has no sidewalks from East Franklin north to East Jefferson. In at least two of those blocks, electric utility high lines are strung across three poles per block. In the third block, a house and fenced-in yard are located where a sidewalk would be located in a normal block configuration.

On the east side of South Cuba, at least two full blocks worth of sidewalks from East Monroe to East Jefferson are in bad repair or have failed completely over time. Numerous spots show signs of several tree root damage to what was once a concreted walkway.

The grant specifies the projects connect portions of town with “everyday destinations” which the application cites as “desirable, useful, and attractive places people need or want to go such as schools, stores, parks, and businesses.”

The corner of the South Cuba and East Jefferson intersection is the site of one of those desirable destinations as the Catholic Church has a playground there which includes an outdoor lending library kiosk.

Niewald shared documents showing the St. Louis engineering firm Horner & Schifrin provided $4,900 in services through the first grant award. There is also $2,500 budgeted for creating the painted bike lanes and designated crosswalks and signs for the route. Other line items on the award include $500 for training costs for city personnel implementing the plan, $300 for travel expenses, $1,000 for stipends to pay city staff for marking routes, and $800 for educational materials.

The grant dates back to 2018 when Missouri was one of 16 states receiving a Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“This project is referred to as the Missouri Physical Activity and Nutrition (MPAN) project,” according to the application form. “MPAN includes four strategies to help Missourians achieve the highest quality of life possible by increasing the number of places that implement food service guidelines, nutrition and physical activity standards in early care and eduction, supporting breast-feeding practices, and new or improved systems to promote safe opportunities for active living in communities.”

City officials noted in November there was the second $10,000 grant awarded. The city has also adopted Ordinance No. 1370 which is a contract with DHSS to participate in the Active Living Community Practice program.

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