Communities along the 144-mile Rock Island corridor are already preparing to apply for the grants from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), passed Nov, 15, that may be used for trails and …
Communities along the 144-mile Rock Island corridor are already preparing to apply for the grants from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), passed Nov, 15, that may be used for trails and active transportation opportunities.
In the Owensville and Gerald communities, Gasconade County R-2 Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy said Dec. 20 that the school district hopes to apply for funds from the Safe Routes to School (Section 11119), as outlined in BIL.
“Once plans are finalized for the Rock Island Trail expansion, we will examine opportunities to create safe routes to school using the two-mile radius to allow students a healthy alternative for getting to school,” Hardy said while attending a school board meeting at the Gerald Elementary facility.
The Owensville campus that houses the elementary, middle, and high schools is not accessible for walking as students would have to cross Highway 19. Walking to campus is against the rules because of the dangers of the highway. However, if the trail corridor is used, a train tunnel under the highway may be utilized and the trail travels beside the middle school towards the elementary school.
In Gerald, the Rock Island corridor has been used as a safe route to school plan since it was cleared in 2018, and even before when the tracks were still in place. The corridor runs parallel to Highway 50, directly across the highway from the school. In a 2018 school board meeting, police officers commented that it was better to have students trespass on the trail and cross the highway across from the school than for them to walk on the highway.
In the Maries County R-2 School District, Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said Dec. 21 that, “It's exciting that kids may have a safe route to school.”
Maries R-2 has facilities in Bland and Belle.
Bland Mayor Lee Medlock said Dec. 27 that the city hoped to join hands with the schools in an effort to apply for grants, but had not begun making phone calls.
“We will try for a partnership with the school and for a trailhead,” Medlock said. “That is something that we will just have to stay on top of. If Rosebud and Owensville, Bland and Belle is up for it, this will be first to open up.”
The Bland Middle School is located about three blocks from Highway 28 in town.
Medlock said he hopes to partner with the school under the Safe Routes to School Program and apply for additional funds under the Recreational Trails Program for a trailhead.
The Maries County R-2 School District in Belle has full roadside frontage at its location on Third Street (Highway M). Students use the assistance of a crosswalk and guard to travel across the intersection.
In 2016, a sidewalk project on Johnson Avenue was initiated with future plans to connect to the Rock Island corridor. Officials hoped that students in the city would someday be able to walk the trail to the Johnson Avenue intersection and use the sidewalk as part of a Safe Routes to School Plan.
Belle Mayor Josh Seaver also said he hoped to partner with the school to see the trail completed within the city limits.
“Yes, the city of Belle will be applying to receive the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant we had before and was taken from us,” Seaver said. “We will contact Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) and see what other grants are out there to make our trail the best it can be.”
The possibility of local users and visitors starts a conversation about the safety of the trail. Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said the county is prepared to patrol their portion of the trail when it is open.
“I think once the trails get established we will come up with methods to control it,” Heitman said. “We already have ATVs for the sheriff's office that can be used on that.”
Heitman said he believes the trail is a positive addition to the county.
“There is not that much crime on the Katy Trail,” he added.
The five-year reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs, including increases in funding for tails, walking, and biking brings opportunity and benefit to Missouri according to a review on trail funding from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Missouri programs through the BIL are paid for with federal allocated funds that have increased from $18,636,252 to $31,681,628 for eligible projects.
While there are multiple options available, the four core programs are the most known and used, including:
Infrastructure Investment Program
• A new discretionary grant program that strategically invests in projects that connect active transportation infrastructure to accelerate the process of making it safe and convenient to get to routine destinations on foot or by bike or wheelchair.
• Funding is authorized at $200 million per year, subject to appropriations for the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act.
• Authorizes nearly 70 percent more money on average for the Transportation Alternatives Program, including the Recreational Trails Program, from $850 million to an average of $1.44 billion per year.
• Allows states to use up to five percent of available funds for technical assistance to administer grants and assist local governments in applying.
Recreational Trails Program
• Funding held at $84 million per year.
• Maintenance and restoration of trails included as eligible uses under the Surface Transportation Block Program.
Safe Routes to School
• Requires that the national Transportation Secretary establish and carry it out, covering safe routes in the “vicinity of schools,” a two-mile radius within bicycling and walking distances, for elementary, middle and high schools.
• This category does not have a specific amount of funding set aside. It is eligible for funds from other programs such as the Transportation Alternatives, Surface Transportation Block Grant Program and Highway Safety Improvement Program.
New programs and funding include:
• Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program: $2 billion over five years annual for rural transportation infrastructure grants that will increase connectivity and improve safety and quality of life. Can include infrastructure for biking and walking.
• Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program: $1 billion over five years. New planning and construction grant program designed to remove barriers to connectivity with preference for economically disadvantaged communities.
• Transportation Access Pilot Program: Provides formula funding to projects that reduce carbon emissions including planning, designing, and construction of both on and off road trail facilities that are part of a state’s carbon reduction strategy that receives federal funding.
• Carbon Reduction Program: Requires that states develop carbon reduction strategies within two years of enactment. Program provides formula funding to projects that reduce carbon emissions including planning, designing and construction of both on-and-off road trail facilities that are part of a state’s carbon reduction strategy that receives federal funding.
• Healthy Streets Program: Authorized at $100 million per year. The program is designed to address urban heat island effects and flooding in low-income communities by assisting local and state governments in deploying cool and porous pavements and increasing tree cover.
• Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program: Funded at $5 billion over five years. Provided to local governments and metropolitan planning organizations to develop and implement comprehensive safety plans designed to prevent death and serious injury on roads and streets.
• Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways: Shared micro mobility added as an eligible expenditure in various provisions, including for purposes of determining federal share. It also defines electric bicycles and sets out classes.
Opportunities created by BIL that could benefit Missouri include:
• Nearly 70 percent more money for the legacy Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program which includes the Recreational Trails Program — from $850 million to an average of $1.44 billion per year.
• Allocated $200 million annually to the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program.
• Provides $7.5 billion in supplemental funding over five years for the Rebuilding America's Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.
Missouri has already realized economic benefit from its investment through the Alternatives Transportation Program by investing in the Katy Trail. Since 1992, Missouri has invested more than $4.3 million in alternative transportation dollars, which generates $18.5 million in economic impact for the state each year, according to the RTC.
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