Infrastructure Investments that Matter – Trails, Bike and Pedestrian Access & Safety
The pandemic uncovered a truth that many have advocated for years: multimodal (biking and walking) modes of transportation must be funded across the state and local levels. According to Rails to Trails, a non-profit trail advocacy and support organization, "demand for both trails, parks and more green space is surging in every community." Trail usage is up more than 200% compared to 2019.
There are compelling arguments for the economics of biking and pedestrian infrastructure investment. A national economic impact study found that the nation's 60 million annual recreational bicyclists spend $46.9B on meals, transportation, lodging, gifts, and entertainment. According to the League of American Bicycles, Washington has a Bicycle Friendly State Rank of #3 with 19 bicycle-friendly communities, 47 bicycle-friendly businesses and three bicycle-friendly universities.
Luckily Washington State Public Agencies are leading the effort and are in the process of addressing this need. In 2021, the Washington legislature adopted the WSDOT Bike and Pedestrian Plan and its Complete Streets Policy that ensures roadways are planned, designed, and operated for the safety of all people, including bikers and walkers. Since 2005, WSDOT has awarded $115.6M for 208 pedestrian and bicycle projects, which will grow substantially in the coming years.
Case in point, As part of WSDOT's Pedestrian and Bicyclist Program and Safe Routes to Schools Program for 2021-2023, they received 107 Pedestrian and Bicycle project applications from 74 agencies and organizations totaling approximately $91M, and 125 Safe Routes to School project applications from 87 agencies and organizations totaling around $99M. These programs will increase the safe mobility of individuals throughout Washington and prove that preemptive transportation planning yields many benefits and save lives by separating vehicular traffic.
AHBL’s work on multimodal transportation projects and safe routes to schools span jurisdictions across the state. This work, providing community connections through the design of trails, parks, and access to open space, started in earnest in 2011.
A capstone-type project for us was to lead a multidisciplinary team to design 13 miles of bikeway and pedestrian improvements along existing roadways throughout the City of Tacoma. The route consists of three miles of bike lanes and approximately 10.5 miles of bike boulevards. The project is part of the build-out for the City's overall Mobility Master Plan. The City of Tacoma was one of the first cities to implement a comprehensive Mobility Master Plan which envisioned an interconnected bicycle and pedestrian network that provides safe routes.
The project was completed in two phases, funded by multiple federal and state grants, followed WSDOT and AASHTO requirements, and the City's work order process. The project included improvements at 15 intersections, including 58 new ADA-compliant curb ramps designed to PROWAG standards. Intersection upgrades consisted of a combination of new ADA ramps, crosswalks, four pedestrian/bike-activated flashing beacons, and pedestrian refuge islands to accommodate safer crossings for bikes and pedestrians.
The evolution to bring conceptualized trail projects to life has been an ongoing effort in recent years. AHBL is involved in designing and constructing trails that offer alternative modes of transportation, including walking and cycling. A few recent examples include:
- Burke-Gilman Trail Re-development, Seattle, WA
- Risdon-Newcastle Trail, Newcastle, WA
- Tacoma Water Flume Trail
- Interurban trail, Tukwila, WA
- Central Kitsap School District Eastside Trail, Silverdale, WA
- Trail and Walking Program, Federal Way, WA
- Peach Creek Trail, University Place, WA
We are in exciting times in Washington State, where we can realize the efforts of multimodal planning for multimodal transportation that goes from the wish list to built projects for citizens and their families to enjoy for years to come. These regional opportunities connect us with safer, health-conscious, and climate-conscious choices regarding transportation.
- Washington's Complete Streets and Main Street Highways Program: Case Studies and Practice Resource
- About the League | League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org)
- LAB_APHN-Fact-Sheets_Washington.pdf (bikeleague.org)
- Pedestrian and Bicyclist Program and Safe Routes to Schools Program, 21-23 (wa.gov)
- 8 Reasons Your Community Should Invest in Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure (sehinc.com)