Billings TrailNet board member Steve Hudak and Executive Director Kristi Drake got quite an education after attending the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Here are some of the highlights.
“I’ll never forget riding one of Washington, D.C.’s Bikeshare cycles in a protected bike lane in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. That ride not only provided stunning nighttime views of the U.S. Capitol, it inspired me to believe that Billings may someday emulate Washington, D.C.’s sophisticated cycling and pedestrian infrastructure,” said Kristi.
“Grass Roots Grow Together,” the theme of the 2018 National Bike Summit, highlighted what local communities have accomplished in improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Steve and Kristi met with Montana’s congressional delegation, Rep. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, to advocate for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure as part of the Trump Administration’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure overhaul. Staff members for Sen. Daines mentioned that they’re devoting a lot of their time to infrastructure.
As part of the conference, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao discussed the administration’s priorities on infrastructure. While the proposal is still in its formative stages, highlights of the plan that were released earlier this year included an 80-20 split, with local and state officials asked to pay for 80 percent of projects, and the federal government to pay for 20 percent. Chao said the plan aims to stimulate private investment, streamline permitting, reduce unnecessary regulations and provide incentives for state and local officals to invest in infrastructure. But one thing is clear: Communties that don’t come up with the local match would be left out.
With many miles of bike and pedestrian trails developed over the past decade, Billings has become considerably more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians. In 2010 Bicycling Magazine ranked Billings No. 37 among the nation’s bike friendly communities. But we have lots of work to do.
This year, Billings TrailNet is focusing its efforts on raising money for the Skyline Trail, which will extend from Swords Park to Zimmerman Park. This $3.5 million project will significantly enhance the local trail system and will provide a key link in completing the proposed Marathon Loop, a 26-mile trail system that would encircle Billings.
“The conference also got us thinking about creative ways to raise money for trails,” Steve reported. “For instance: How about asking a local brewer to develop a ‘Trail Ale’ or some other special brew. A portion of each pint sold would be set aside to raise money for trails.”
Invigorated with new ideas about ways infrastructure can accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and funding mechanisms to pay for it, Billings TrailNet expects to implement a few new programs once details have been settled.