Grant to boost area transit options

In the future, students might have an easier time getting to class by bike and on foot.St. Paul-based Transit for Livable Communities has been given a $25 million federal grant to improve automobile alternatives in the area.

Kevin McCahill

In the future, students might have an easier time getting to class by bike and on foot.

St. Paul-based Transit for Livable Communities has been given a $25 million federal grant to improve automobile alternatives in the area. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is one of four regions in the United States that have been given the funding.

This is good news for students who don’t own cars and are looking for safe, quick routes to campus.

Although a funding plan hasn’t yet been created, ideas for spending the money include adding more trails, making roads safer for bikers and pedestrians, and offering incentives to employees for biking, according to the group.

The program is still in its infancy, but consideration is expected to be given to the University.

Barb Thoman, program director for the group, said the main goal is to get people to bike and walk more often. Each community will be given $6.25 million a year to fund the project.

The group is now waiting for guidance from the Federal Highway Administration. Once they receive that, an advisory committee will be put in place to disperse the funds.

Marin County, Calif., Sheboygan County, Wis., and Columbia, Miss., were also selected for the funding.

“A region with a greater percentage of people on bikes and on foot is a region where transportation costs are lower, air quality is better and environmental impacts are reduced,” Thoman said.

Some students hope some of the improvements will happen near campus.

Architecture sophomore Dan Rippl said much could be done to help bicyclists.

Rippl pointed out particularly dangerous areas like Fourth Street in Dinkytown, where bikes must mix with cars.

“It feels like you are going against traffic,” he said.

He would like to see barricades to separate riders and cars.

Undecided first-year student Gus Roethlisberger said he lives on the West Bank and has an easy time getting around on his bike, but would like to see more bike trails on campus so students wouldn’t need to worry about pedestrians.

Ann Forsyth, professor of urban planning at the University, said the money will likely be used in areas outside the city, where there are fewer paths available. The advisory committee also will need to decide whether more paths should be built or if some should be upgraded.

“Is it more important to have a lot of bike paths or a few high-quality ones?” she said.

In terms of the infrastructure of pathways for pedestrians, the focus will likely be put on bikers, who need roadways to get around, Forsyth said.

“In cycling, more people are put off by a lack of infrastructure,” she said.

Steve Sanders, campus bicycle coordinator for the University, said the money could be used to help improve bike and pedestrian routes, but the University would need to partner with surrounding governments. University Avenue and Fourth Street are both Hennepin County property.

Sanders said the guidelines still aren’t clear if only Minneapolis, St. Paul or a certain county is eligible for the money.

TLC is working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on the project.

Regardless, the funding will help whoever receives it, as it doubles the average available money for pedestrian and bike transportation projects, Sanders said.

The money would be a benefit for students, he said.

“Any improvements in cycling to the U will help students,” Sanders said. “Anytime access to the ‘U’ is improved for bicycling and walking, that improves campus life for students.”