Hiking Trails

Cycling and walking paths could benefit from the infrastructure bill

Scot Grossman and his team are putting the finishing touches to this all-new, nearly two-mile stretch of trail that winds along Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado.

“It’s 65 miles, 5,600 vertical feet, crossing several jurisdictions along the way. The most important link to those 65 miles is Clear Creek Canyon, which we are currently in, ”said Scot Grossman, project team supervisor at the Jefferson County Open Space.

At the end of August, this part of the trail will be open to walking and cycling.

“We completed about three miles in 2017; it’s a mile and three-quarters right now. We have funding for an additional three and a half miles, which will leave a gap of about five miles, and that’s really where that federal money comes in, ”Grossman said.

He saw segments of this 16.5-mile missing link in the Peaks to Plains Trail Project come to life – funded by state money, federal transportation dollars, and other grants.

“Big public projects like this, big capital projects, take money from everywhere. It can’t just be local jurisdiction taking on something statewide significance like this, ”he said.

This is where federal funding can play a role and where President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan could fill a gap.

“The federal jobs law is huge so that we can take advantage of the funding we have available, which is important but not enough to complete something like this,” Grossman said.

And projects like this exist across the country.

“I bet you can all think of a place in your neighborhood where you are like, ‘Oh, I can do this three kilometer trip by bike, except I have to cross this road which is very dangerous. “Putting that type of investment into cycling and walking will help find a solution to this stuff,” said Caron Whitaker, deputy executive director of the League of American Bicyclists.

Whitaker says the bigger infrastructure package being discussed could help shift gears in the way we travel.

“There are a lot of overdue projects that cities and towns and even states have wanted to do for a long time but just didn’t get the funding. So the infrastructure package would give them that funding, ”Whitaker said.

The problem right now is that no one in the federal government has agreed on what should be in the plan that will be implemented.

“So there are competing bills in the Senate and the House, and there are going to be negotiations, and the bills are very different,” said Nick Klein, assistant professor at Cornell University in the department. town planning and land use planning. .

Klein said it’s not clear if this bill will be what we normally see for transportation policy or if it will be something different.

“In opinion polls, the American public wants to see a future with more walking, cycling and public transportation. Overall, that’s what people want us to focus on, ”Klein said.

“The infrastructure bill is very important because it sort of sets the agenda for where and how we are going to spend billions and billions of dollars,” he said.

Returning to the Peaks to Plains project, Piep van Heuven with nonprofit advocacy group Bicycle Colorado said projects like this could not be done without federal funding.

“We don’t have a lot of details on the infrastructure plan yet, but there are three very good indicators; one is that funding for cycling and walking is likely to increase or even double, ”she explained. “And [the plan] also uses language like “fix it right,” which is a nod to Complete Streets or the philosophy that when you build a road or maintain a road, you want to do it for everyone. So it’s for people who drive, cycle and walk.

Construction of this trail continues, paving the way for what other friendly trails might look like in the future.

“Having those federal dollars focused on being able to finish things like this is huge,” Grossman said.

“This is a great example of the kind of multi-use cycle and pedestrian path we want. It’s the cream of the crop, ”said Van Heuven.