Shoutouts!

It’s Friday and Topeka is crushing it in the biking and walking game lately, so some shoutouts are due.

First: Topeka Planning Department.

Bikeways Plan is happening, being implemented, and we have tons of sharrows and bike lanes on the road now. The City put out a great video on rules of the road to go along with these efforts.

Pedestrian Plan was approved and passed through City Council and will be implemented over the next ten years. (Only a few decades overdue, but hey, it was recognized as a problem and is being addressed.)

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Sharrow on SW 4th St. looking west.

Honorable mention to the Planning Department’s “Land Use and Growth Management Plan 2040” which was also finished within the last year. It’s a toned-down version of Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary. (Basically, the further you spread out your city, the harder it is to maintain your infrastructure.)

Next: Visit Topeka, Inc.

They’ve taken the reins to host a Cyclovia (bike fest) this summer, a bike party for all!

Finally: Topeka Metro Bikes

Well, this one should be obvious. Metro launched the first bikeshare in the state of Kansas a year ago today. A year later and no other city has jumped into the game – and in two weeks the TMB system doubles to 200 bikes! Eat our dust, Wichita! 😉

 

 

Iowa DOT Director: State’s road system will shrink | The Gazette

Kansas is in the same boat. We can’t maintain all that we currently have. In no way should we be considering building more.

The state’s top transportation official, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, has been candid in his assessment of the road system here.

Source: Iowa DOT Director: State’s road system will shrink | The Gazette

Why Texas is Spending too Much on Roads and How to Stop — Strong Towns

How is this relevant to Kansas? We’re about to spend $200 million over the next couple decades on a mere 3-mile section of highway in our downtown corridor. At what scale will that ever be sustainable? Click through to Strong Towns to read why #NoNewRoads makes sense for Texas (and for Kansas, too).

Patrick Kennedy is a Strong Towns member actively working to end Texas’ overspending on roads. Today, he shares what got Texas to this point and how it might be able to change course.

Source: Why Texas is Spending too Much on Roads and How to Stop — Strong Towns

Topeka Public Schools to offer bicycle education program as part of P.E. classes

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THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL-Marsha Pope, left, vice president of the Topeka Community Foundation, presented a check Monday for $10,000 to Andy Fry and Katie Snider of the Topeka Community Cycle Project to support a new Topeka USD 501 youth bike education program. The program – designed to educate elementary school students about safe riding habits – also received another $13,500 from the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods coalition.

Repost from the Topeka Capital-Journal.

A bicycle education program for Topeka Unified School District 501 elementary students will begin this spring, due in large part to $23,500 the program received on Monday from the Topeka Community Foundation and the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods coalition.

“It will allow us to reach a whole other demographic of Topekans in offering safe-riding courses for fourth- and fifth-graders within (USD) 501 schools,” said Andy Fry, of the Topeka Community Cycle Project. “We’ll be able to offer them the basics of how to navigate the roads safely. For the kids who don’t know already how to ride a bicycle, we’ll be able to teach them balance and the basics of riding a bicycle.”

In partnership with Safe Kids of Shawnee County and the League of American Bicyclists Instructors, Fry said the weeklong course will be taught by USD 501 physical education teachers beginning this spring for the next five years and will be integrated into USD 501’s physical education curriculum.

Fry said the Topeka Bike Lessons and Safety Tools, or Topeka BLAST, is modeled after a similar program in Kansas City.

“We wanted to bring that here,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to provide our own instructors, so working with 501, we can harness the partnership of their existing P.E. instructors and have it during their P.E. time of the day. It will be a mobile unit that will go school to school.”

The Topeka Bikeways Committee also received $16,500 on Monday from the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods coalition to complete the first phase of the committee’s project to provide 422 street signs, 24 over-the-street mast signs and construction of wider sidewalks along 54 miles of bike routes across Topeka. The second phase of the project will begin in the spring and is estimated to cost $400,000 — 20 percent of which is private funding — which will add more signage and wider sidewalks to additional streets.

Ralph Krumins, of the Bikeways Advisory Council, said when the push started in 2009 to make Topeka safer for bicyclists, it seemed like an uphill climb. However, he said with the Complete Streets resolution passed that same year by the Topeka City Council, acceptance for a variety of transportation has steadily grown throughout Topeka.

“It’s a lot safer to be able to get around when you have streets that are marked for bicycles,” Krumins said of the recent progress made by the Complete Streets and Bikeways council in the past several years. “We still have some education to do and get people up to speed on what has already happened, but we’re really very excited about it.”

The gifts for the Topeka USD 501 bike program and bikeways signage were presented during the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods meeting Monday at Lake Shawnee. Several Shawnee County partner organizations reported on progress they have made in the past year and plans for 2016 on a variety of health-based initiatives.

Also during Monday’s meeting, John Calbeck, the outgoing chairperson for Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods, announced the Wichita-based Kansas Leadership Center is donating $50,000 of in-kind funds for 2016 strategic planning by the Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods partner organizations.

“They’ve (Kansas Leadership Center) been a major supporter of us the whole time,” Calbeck said.

See original at the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Free Ride Day on Topeka Metro buses tomorrow

Tomorrow, Topeka Metro is offering free rides on all its fixed routes in the city, in recognition of the 60th Anniversary of Rosa Parks’ bus protest.

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Have you ever wanted to try out the bus? Tomorrow would be a great day for that! Check out the system map and find the route that suits you best – either one that goes close to home or close to work. Metro uses a hub-and-spoke system, so if you need two routes to get to your destination, that might mean transferring at Quincy Street Station downtown.

If you live in city limits, chances are good that you live near a bus route. Almost 75% of Topekans are within a 1/4-mile of a bus route – that’s just a 10-minute walk!

 

A radically simple solution for the Polk-Quincy Viaduct problem

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Topeka, like many cities, is immured in a ring of ailing interstate highways. This network of roads had lofty goals at its onset, but its effects have produced unintended consequences.

The Polk-Quincy Viaduct in Topeka is particularly perplexing. Why, in the 1960s, would the City of Topeka agree to route a highway through the center of its densely-peopled downtown corridor? Surely it wasn’t meant to decimate the core of black-owned businesses east of Kansas Avenue between the river and 6th Street — but that’s what it effectively did.

In the process of Urban Renewal (or Urban Removal), Topeka lost out on property tax revenue for hundreds of acres of land, in the name of un-taxable state right-of-way and the lure of tourism-driven sales-tax dollars.

Political missteps aside, we have an opportunity to discuss. Design standards in the 60s were not as stringent as today’s, and in the last decade, the state Department of Transportation has determined that the Polk-Quincy Viaduct section of I-70 is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country.

What’s proposed by KDOT is a redesign.

What’s proposed here is abandonment.

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Could this be the New Topeka?

Take another glance at the map. What is achieved by I-70 that is not achieved by I-470? Here’s a list: convoluted access to US-75, induced demand and excessive congestion between downtown and West Topeka (frequently bottle-necking at MacVicar), and a whole lot of expensive highway roads to maintain all year and in all weather indefinitely into the future.

If we want to make the highway safer, reduce our burden of infrastructure maintenance, and improve the ability to collect sustainable property taxes, let’s close I-70 from K-4 highway to US-75 highway.

We’ll route through-traffic to the smoother and newer I-470 south of town. We’ll reclaim a ton of territory for our strong central neighborhoods and the steadily-growing downtown corridor. We’ll improve property values along the whole route. And Kansas can free up part of its $1 billion highway budget to tackle a few of the 347 substandard bridges in the state.

There’s a lot of value in the study produced by KDOT and the Metropolitan Topeka Planning Organization. It discusses the purpose and need for a change along the route, as well as some alternatives. But the underlying assumption of the study is that the highway is needed. That’s the idea we’re challenging.

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Page 11 from the PQVS shows an aerial view of the highway cutting downtown in two halves, and a detailed map of the study area.

There are great, low-cost alternatives to bulldozing the disused highway bridges and below-grade sections. How about a raised public park, like the Highline in New York City, or the 606 in Chicago?

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Highline Park in New York City. Photo Credit: h-bomb via Compfight. cc

And for the below-grade sections through downtown, how about a downtown riverwalk and canal?

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Bricktown canal and Bricktown Water Taxi in Oklahoma City. Photo Credit: KB35 via Compfight. cc

This sounds like a radical solution, but it is not made in jest. Our highways are expensive. It has been decades since the gas tax fully replenished the Highway Trust Fund. All roads are heavily subsidized. Highways simply don’t pay for themselves.

Knowing that, why would we propose to spend $200 million to correct a design error on a 50-year-old highway and further displace downtown residents and businesses, rather than look for creative, time-tested, and less-expensive solutions? It sounds a lot more radical to fix the old highway than to look for a proven alternative.


 

Addendum 2016/2/3 —

What if we vacate only the section of highway in question in the Polk-Quincy Viaduct study? That leaves highway access at both Adams and MacVicar open.

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Through-traffic could still be routed to I-470, and any industrial traffic heading into the city could still get to Adams St. from the east, or to MacVicar from the west.

Even now, it’s barely any difference in travel time.

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Birmingham gets it. Dallas gets it. We can do better!