After years of delays, Grand Boulevard could finally get bike lanes by late October, under a $600,000 funding plan that the Kansas City Council votes on Thursday.
The public works department is asking the city council to provide $600,000 in local funds to get the work done, after two bid requests that relied on federal funds, with expensive federal contracting rules, came in way over budget.
“It’s a chance to get this long-running project off the books and get it accomplished,” deputy public works director Ralph Davis told the council’s finance committee Wednesday, detailing the benefit of using local funds.
The local money would come from the unspent reserve of the capital improvment fund for street resurfacing, and the city would seek to use the federal air quality dollars for some other road improvement purpose.
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Davis and others said they can use the local dollars for a change order to an existing street resurfacing contract and won’t have to rebid it. That would allow the striping on Grand from River Market to Crown Center, and public works officials said goal would be to complete the work by late October. Another part of the downtown loop project, on 18th Street from Grand Boulevard to The Paseo, will be postponed until major water main work is done on 18th Street. Those bike lanes should be painted next spring.
The Grand Boulevard bike lanes are part of a larger downtown bike connector project that was awarded federal funds in 2013, prompting an outcry over how far behind schedule it is. It took years to design the project in a way that the downtown community would accept, and then two bid attempts each resulted in just one bidder, with bids way over the $600,000 budget.
Bike advocates were outraged when the city said it would have to postpone the work again, into 2018, so now public works says it is hopeful of completing the work this year.
At Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting, Eric Rogers and Eric Bunch of BikeWalkKC praised the city for finally getting off the dime on the downtown loop project. But they also urged the city to get moving on bike improvements on Armour Boulevard, from Broadway to The Paseo, and on Benton Boulevard, from St. John Avenue to Brush Creek Boulevard. Those projects are even more behind schedule, having received federal approval in 2010.
“It really does make our city healthier,” Rogers said, adding that the Armour and Benton routes encompass neighborhoods where many residents don’t own cars and need and want these amenities. He said the city council needs to “provide the leadership to make this a priority.”
Davis said the city believes it can get competitive bids this fall for those projects, even using federal funds, and is working to get them built next spring.