City pursues grant for painting dedicated bike lane network
Stevens Point will pursue a federal grant to paint 13.16 miles of bike lanes and place signage along city streets in an effort to clearly define bike routes through the city and connect destination areas with the routes.
Stevens Point’s newly-formed Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee learned about the federally-funded, state-administered Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant in early December and has worked diligently to meet the deadline at the end of the month.
“I want to point out that I was made aware of this opportunity in early December, the deadline is the end of January. The people of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, as well as city staff, have really busted their hump to put together a project of this magnitude in time for consideration (by the Common Council),” said Wiza.
“It’s really a phenomenal opportunity and I really have to commend staff and the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee for getting all of these pieces of information together,” he said. “I don’t know if you can imagine how much work is required to put together an application for a grant of this size, and they’ve done it in a month.”
“The TAP grant will allow Stevens Point to modernize its transportation infrastructure by creating 13.16 miles of painted and signed bicycle lanes, urban shoulders and shared lane marking. The project will create a network that intersects the city and connects residents and visitors to major businesses and employment areas, schools, neighboring jurisdictions, parks and existing bike facilities,” said Trevor Roark, vice-chair of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
The project is based on recommendations by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), Stevens Point city staff and Portage County’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, which was adopted in October 2015, Roark said.
“This whole project that we developed is based on those two things, the plan and the DOT,” he said.
“If you look at the map, (see above) you’ll notice that this project will create on-street bicycle routes to work, shopping and schools,” Roark said. “These facilities will improve safety by increasing visibility of bicyclists, creating defined routes and reducing bicycle usage on sidewalks, which is a problem I see every day.”
The total cost for the project – which includes planning, design, government reviews, materials and construction – is estimated at $444,000. However, the TAP grant, if awarded, will cover 80 percent of the total cost, leaving the city to shoulder the remaining $88,000.
“It’s something we’ve been moving toward for a while. We’ve had bike lanes in the city for years … but there’s never been a collective effort to map it and make logical connections between roads and destinations, and I think that part of what this Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is working,” said Wiza.
“The council’s approval of this grant is going to save the city piles of money. Basically (the federal government) is going to pay for 80 percent of it … the city’s contribution would be less than $90,000 and that covers the whole city.
“Part of that $90,000 can also be in-kind funding, basically the time our employees spend working on the project counts. So, it’s not necessarily a cash outlay for the city. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the city,” said Wiza.
“There is decades of research on the payback of investing in well-designed bike infrastructure,” said Tori Jennings, chair of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. “This is about modernizing our transportation system for the 21st Century, to attract businesses and improve our economy.
“Receiving this grant would be a feather in the cap of Stevens Point. Funders like working with agencies that have a successful track record of writing grants and implementing projects. In other words, successful grants leverage more grants,” Jennings said.
If approved, the design is slated for completion in 2017 with project completion in 2019.
Slowinski said he likes the project idea, but wouldn’t be doing his due diligence if he didn’t point out that once the lines were painted and the signs were installed, the city would then be responsible for the maintenance.
Currently, road lines and other markings are repainted on a yearly basis. The proposed bicycle lanes would need repainting only every seven years, but would no longer be covered under the grant.
“With all due respect to the people who’ve done this work, I appreciate all the work, I always pause. You know me, I don’t like to add additional burdens on our work crews moving forward,” said Jeremy Slowinski, District 6 alderperson and chair of the Board of Public Works.
“We have big projects coming up in the future, and that’s just one more thing we’re going to have to be responsible for to take care of in the future. That’s where I somewhat hesitate. I mean, I’m not arguing with the program, I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
“I do appreciate the Common Council recognizing that this is a project that, if it does happen in 2019, seven years later we will be looking at trying to figure out a way to refresh the pavement markings from this project,” said Scott Schatschneider, director of Public Works.
“The mayor and I have spoken about how we would want to be proactive in how we maintain the pavement markings. So, I do appreciate that concern, but I think between now and then there’s plenty of time for us to figure it out,” Schatschneider said.
“So, you’re comfortable with us throwing this on your lap and saying, ‘OK, here you go’?” Slowinski asked.
“I am. Because from a staff perspective, this idea is critical for our community. This is the type of project that pushes us forward, and that’s the part of this that’s really critical,” Schatschneider said.
The Board of Public Works voted unanimously to recommend approval of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s request to pursue the TAP grant.