I was planning to attend and speak on this bill during the Public Portion of tonight’s regularly scheduled County Council meeting which starts at 6 pm. Then I learned at 3:20 pm that it had already started at 3:00 pm to allow councilmembers to leave early for Thanksgiving! The hours I’d spent during the early hours of this morning honing what I planned to say during my 3 minutes at the podium suddenly went up in smoke.
But a little later I learned the final vote on this bill had been postponed until next week, due to funding issues. Whew! Sometimes there’s other reasons to give thanks, apart from sitting down with friends and family at Thanksgiving.
And while checking out the text of this story on-line, I came across a related story by Post-Dispatch reporter Margaret Gillerman published the previous week. Headlined “County Council urged to approve more bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly policies” it described testimony given in support of this bill.
St. Louis County Council puts Complete Streets legislation on hold
November 26, 2013 6:48 pm • By Steve Giegerich email@example.com 314-725-67582
CLAYTON • Faced with funding questions from highway department officials, the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday held off on a vote that could ultimately improve access for bicyclists and pedestrians along county roads.
Councilman Pat Dolan, the co-sponsor of the bill, joined Trailnet official Rhonda Smythe in predicting passage of the measure, perhaps as early as next week.
Trailnet, a nonprofit group that promotes healthy lifestyle alternatives, is the driving force behind the expansion of the Complete Streets program in the county.
Tuesday’s delay came on the heels of questions raised earlier this week about the scope and cost that additional sidewalks and bicycle lanes will impose on future road projects.
“Supporters say this bill is benign and harmless. But it’s anything but,” said David Wrone, a spokesman for the county division of Highways, Traffic and Public Works. “It’s a massive spending bill, and we have no idea how we would pay for it.”
Wrone estimated it would cost taxpayers a minimum of $300 million to install bicycle lanes along just 15 percent of county-maintained roadways.
The estimate, he noted, does not embrace further payments to property owners for easements to expand streets or the cost of relocating utilities.
Smythe disputes the highway department’s characterization.
“The biggest misconception is that we want all roads immediately retrofitted with new sidewalks and bike lanes,” she said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Trailnet, she stressed, advocates for improved bike and pedestrian access when opportunities for “new street design” arise.
The county can integrate bike lanes and sidewalks into future road improvements at a “negligible or small cost,” she added.
Wrone countered that the Dolan legislation neglects to address the true price the improvements will exact on taxpayers.
Dolan’s legislation amended an earlier measure introduced by County Executive Charlie Dooley.
The county executive’s proposal gave the county more discretion on Complete Streets projects.
Wrone wondered aloud why the Dolan-Trailnet alliance pushed the legislation through without first consulting with county highway engineers.
“We do this for a living,” he said. “It’s odd that we weren’t involved at a much deeper level.”
Smythe said her organization has in fact conducted “conversations” with county highway department officials.
Trailnet and other advocates contend that a portion of the Great Rivers Greenway bonds approved by voters in two separate elections were intended for Complete Streets projects.
Dooley and county officials maintain Great Rivers Greenway funds are to be directed to trails and not county roads.