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How Would You Spend $50 Million: One Mile of an Urban Highway or Hundreds of Miles of Bicycling and Walking Infrastructure?

October 20, 2008

Bike Walk Twin Cities Initiative Aims to Convert Short Driving Trips to Walking and Bicycling

Contact: Katie Eukel, Transit for Livable Communities, 651-767-0298 x115

SAINT PAUL—Chronic traffic congestion. Crippling gas bills. Skyrocketing costs to build roads.  All of these problems result from a highly inefficient transportation system that offers only one answer to most of our transportation needs—the car. The Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative aims to change that: the federally funded program is working to shift a significant percentage of trips to walking and bicycling.

“When gas prices hit $4.00, I started biking to work to from Shoreview to downtown St. Paul,” says Marsha Kurka, a local resident. “Even though gas prices went down, I kept it up through September. It’s definitely saved me money, but it also gave me a set time to exercise every day, which really kept me hooked.”

A report issued today by the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) quantifies, for the first time, the benefits that America can expect from elevating the priority of bicycling and walking in our nation’s transportation system. For the price of a single mile of a four-lane urban highway, approximately $50 million, hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can be built, an investment that could complete an entire network of places to walk and bike in a mid-sized city.

The Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative uses a $21.5 million federal grant to fund new bike lanes, safer crosswalks, and other improvements to make it easier to walk and bike in Minneapolis and its neighboring communities. Administered by Transit for Livable Communities, the initiative has funded 39 projects and programs, which have trained hundreds of cyclists on how to ride more safely on what will be up to 75 new miles of places to walk and bike.

“We estimate that Minneapolis and its neighboring communities could shift a significant percentage of driving trips to walking and bicycling,” says Joan Pasiuk, Program Director of the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative. “For the past half-century, America has spent the majority of its transportation resources building a transportation system that can’t meet all of our transportation needs. By shifting even a small percentage of our trips to bicycling or walking, a person can save money.”

Americans want and need these choices. According to the RTC report, when Americans were asked about how they would allocate transportation spending, they indicated they would spend 22 percent of transportation funding on walking and bicycling infrastructure—about 15 times what is currently spent. 28 percent of all trips in Minneapolis involve bicycling or walking, and counts of bicyclists on the Midtown Greenway showed a 30 percent increase over the same months in the previous year, but “without prior investment in urban trails and transit, it’s doubtful that we would have seen such a dramatic increase,” says Pasiuk.

“Just as a financial manager seeks a diverse portfolio of investments, our elected officials should support diversity in our transportation system,” says Lea Schuster, Executive Director of Transit for Livable Communities. “Without diverse ways to get around, America faces congested roads that cost us time, gas prices that shrink our disposable income, road-building projects that place enormous burdens on state and federal budgets, and an overdependence on oil that leaves our economy at the mercy of the world oil market and its suppliers.” 

Funding for the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative ends in 2011, so Transit for Livable Communities will work with Congress to continue funding the initiative.

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About … Bike Walk Twin Cities
Bike Walk Twin Cities is a federally-funded initiative to increase biking and walking, and reduce driving in Minneapolis and neighboring communities. Working with local governments, businesses, organizations and residents, the initiative provides public education and allocates funds for safer crosswalks, bike lanes and other improvements. Transit for Livable Communities is designated by federal law to administer the $21.5 million Bike Walk Twin Cities program (www.bikewalktwincities.org).

About … Transit for Livable Communities
Transit for Livable Communities, a Twin Cities non-profit organization that promotes a more balanced transportation system, is designated by federal law to administer Bike Walk Twin Cities, a $21.5 million initiative to increase biking and walking, and reduce driving. (www.tlcminnesota.org)

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