Our Opinion: Becoming bicycle- and walk-friendly for the feds

News Tribune editorial

Although pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles have shared the roads in America for more than a century, the "first-ever" bicycle and pedestrian plan is now being developed in Central Missouri.

Jefferson City area residents are invited to share their vision and goals for the plan at the first open house from 3:30-6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

The public forum is being hosted by the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).

The plan and the open house reflect an attempt to blend the sometimes disparate efforts of federal, state and local authorities to promote transportation initiatives, including the sometimes conflicting priorities of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Our readers may recall an editorial cartoon in the June 13 News Tribune depicting a motorist on crumbling infrastructure complaining that Highway Trust Fund money was spent on bike paths and sidewalks.

We heard similar complaints from motorists when the pedestrian/bicycle lane was added to the Missouri River Bridge.

Some of those complaints are driven by the lack of revenue for the state's roads and bridges. Some is driven by a lack of understanding that Congress has directed some federal money to be granted to states strictly as enhancement funds for pedestrians and bicyclists.

CAMPO itself is a federal creation, as are Missouri's six other MPOs. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the MPOs "are agencies or organizational arrangements that carry out the required planning process as described in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962. The Act required, as a condition attached to federal transportation financial assistance, that transportation projects in urbanized areas of 50,000 or more in population be based on a continuing, comprehensive, urban transportation planning process undertaken cooperatively by the states and local governments."

The federal government is fond of formal programs and participants at the open house will be asked to complete a survey to help CAMPO:

• Create a Complete Streets policy. CAMPO is one of only three Missouri MPOs that has not yet adopted such a policy.

• Apply for both Bicycle Friendly Community status and Walk Friendly Community status.

CAMPO offers more information about the plan, including the survey, at www.jeffcitymo.org/pps/campo/BikePedPlan.html.

What we haven't been able to determine is the benefit of having a CAMPO Complete Streets policy or Bicycle Friendly Community and Walk Friendly Community status.

Presumably, those policies and designations would enhance Central Missouri's eligibility for federal funds.

If that is true, the question invariably will be asked: Funds for what - sidewalks, bike lanes or roads?