Kansas City, MO residents voted on April 4 to issue $800 million in bond sales that will go directly towards upgrading and replacing infrastructure. The money raised from the general obligation bonds, or GO for short, will fix up to century old sidewalks, bridges, flood control, public buildings and roads, according to KCMO Councilwoman Julie Justus.
The updates will be completed over 20 years in Kansas City, MO, which is spread across Jackson, Platte and Clay counties. This includes areas such as the Country Club Plaza, the Crossroads, downtown and many other sites frequented by Johnson County citizens.
The city will put a major focus on improving the bikeability and walkability because of a resolution sponsored by Justus in late March. Legislation #170215 ensured that the improvement of sidewalks and bike lanes would be included in the bond.
“I proposed the resolution because I support comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle facilities for Kansas City,” Justus said. “The resolution instructs the City Manager to develop a Complete Streets policy and a sidewalk policy that takes into account all the ways people move through our city.”
BikeWalk Kansas City is a bicycle pedestrian advocacy organization that drafted the original resolution before it was modified by the council. BikeWalk KC runs youth and adult biking education programs to “redefine our streets as places for people to build a culture of active living,” according to their mission statement. They have been instrumental in creating a regional bike plan that eventually will connect bike lanes from throughout Johnson County, Wyandotte County and communities in Missouri.
“We have thousands of miles of streets that the city can barely maintain,” co-founder of BikeWalk KC Eric Bunch said. “We have allowed the city to sprawl to the point where we are not collecting enough taxes to maintain everything, so it is financially unsustainable.”
The bond sales will increase the property tax of Kansas City, MO by $8 per person, however it will relieve the burden of paying for sidewalks off of property owners. In the past, it has been the responsibility of adjacent property owners to pay for sidewalks with costs being as high as $8,000. According to Bunch, this is the first real funding dedicated to sidewalks the city has ever seen.
“This will be very beneficial to neighborhoods that rely on sidewalks, from just walking their dog in the neighborhood to those who rely on public transportation, sidewalks will be in better condition,” Bunch said. “That is one of the biggest quality of life things that we can get out of this.”
Senior Will Burrus is an avid and competitive cyclist who spends many mornings enjoying the streets on his bike. According to Burrus, having bike lanes would make it easier to deal with traffic problems during his ride.
“It’s a little ironic because I am a cyclist myself, and I hate passing cyclists when I am driving,” Burrus said. “I think to myself, ‘stop riding on the road’ and then I realize, ‘wait I do that all the time.’”
The addition of bike lanes will also make different areas of the city more accessible. In areas where there aren’t bike lanes it can be stressful and difficult to get through traffic.
“I am hoping that this gets more people into just even riding their bike too and from work,” Burrus said. “I think it is a step in the right direction.”
More information on BikeWalkKC and maps and projects can be found at www.bikewalkkc.org.