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Phase III of Bike St. Louis to include 100 miles of upgrades and expansion

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 1, 2013 - Bike St. Louis, the system of on-street bicycle routes throughout the St. Louis area, is about to receive a major face-lift.

Phase III of Bike St. Louis would upgrade 60 miles and expand the bike routes by 40 miles in the city.

“The goal is to go out to bid [for the work] by April or May of next year,” said Todd Antoine, director of planning for the Great Rivers Greenway District. “We’re thinking that by September of next year it could be done.”

Great Rivers Greenway, which is spearheading the project, has to incorporate public feedback into its plans. This comes from public open houses, the last of which was held on Oct. 3 and a recently closed online survey that solicited feedback on the planned expansion. The next step will be to submit the plans to MoDOT for approval to ensure that all items meet state transportation standards.

Phase III details

Within the 100-mile plan, 60 miles are upgrades of existing routes in the Bike St. Louis system. These upgrades, Antoine said, are welcome. “We started this project 10 years ago. The federal standards for on-street markings have changed in that time.”

The plan would also create 40 miles of new routes with six distinct types of bikeway: neighborhood greenway, shared lane markings, bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks (which can be parking-protected bike lanes) and road diets (or narrowing or otherwise changing traffic lanes to accommodate bicycles).

Descriptions and graphics of each bikeway type are between pages 6-11 of this document.

Great Rivers Greenway has also been assembling a database of possible bicycle parking locations that would be suitable for the creation of bike corrals, such as those seen in the Central West End.

Part of the reason for optimism that the project will be done by late next year is that on-street markings make up most of the planned upgrades and expansion of bike designation, as opposed to a complete overhaul of the roads.

With on-street markings, Antoine said, “once you get out there and get started it doesn’t take that long to do it.”

The Phase III plans originate in large part from the Gateway Bike Plan, an existing regional planning document, which also means less administrative delay.

Bike St. Louis and the Gateway Bike Plan

The first 20 continuous miles of Bike St. Louis routes were unveiled in 2005. Then 6th Ward Alderman Lewis Reed and former Rep. Russ Carnahan championed the idea; and six aldermen, including Reed, committed funds to the project.

Phase II of Bike St. Louis, completed in 2008, added 50 miles to the system. By then, Antoine estimated, 18 aldermen were supporting the project. But, he added, no central vision was guiding the project.

“There was never sort of a plan, it just kind of grew organically,” Antoine said of Bike St. Louis. “There was a need to put together a planning document.”

That document was completed in 2010.

According to its webpage, the Gateway Bike Plan “is a result of a cooperative effort between the Great Rivers Greenway District, Missouri Department of Transportation, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Metro, numerous municipalities, St. Louis and St. Charles counties, St. Louis and Trailnet.”

“It’s about a thousand miles of proposed bike paths,” Antoine said of what's expected to be a 20- to 25-year project. "This is a longer-term vision of how we connect the three counties of the district together.”

So far, Bike St. Louis is further along than other components in part because of the strong relationship between Great Rivers Greenways and the city.

For Phase III, Bike St. Louis has received a $1.4 million grant from East-West Gateway; and St. Louis and Great Rivers Greenway are contributing $140,000 each.

The funding process

That money from East-West Gateway is part of the Surface Transportation Program, a funding category in the broader Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

TIP, according to documents for fiscal years 2013-2016, “is a schedule of transportation improvements planned by various agencies in the St. Louis metropolitan area.”

East-West Gateway is the planning organization for the St. Louis region and approves organizations, such as Great Rivers Greenway, to receive federal funds for TIP.

Those funds originate in the U.S Department of Transportation, come through MoDOT (in Missouri) and are administered by East-West Gateway.

“It’s a reimbursable program,” Antoine said. “We’ll pay the contractor as they are doing the work and then we submit invoices to MoDOT to get reimbursed.”

Bram Sable-Smith is a Beacon intern.