TxDOT Developing Statewide Active Transportation Plan

The Texas Department of Transportation is developing a Statewide Active Transportation Plan or SATP to gather recommendations for improving bicycling, walking, and rolling conditions across the Lone Star state.

[Above image by TxDOT]

The agency noted in a statement that its SATP focuses on community needs to identify mobility priority areas while making and improving connections between trails, paths, and transit services in order to offer  safe and efficient multimodal options for personal travel. 

TxDOT added the SATP is being integrated with its other long-range mobility plans to help it maintain a safe, accessible, connected, and fully integrated multimodal transportation system for the future, since the population of Texas is expected to grow by 28 percent by 2050.

[Editor’s note: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently appointed Nancy Daubenberger – commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation – and Rob Bedenbaugh, director of the Office of Engineering Support for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, to two-year terms as chair and vice chair, respectively, for the AASHTO Council on Active Transportation. AASHTO’s Council on Active Transportation addresses issues related to using human-powered means of travel, which includes walking and bicycling, with or without the use of mobility aids; and may also include using other human-scaled or micro-mobility devices that may be electric-powered or electric-assisted, such as e-bikes and e-scooters.]

In the fall of 2023, TxDOT said it held virtual and in-person meetings statewide to gather input from more than 4,800 people, stakeholders, and other groups to help shape the SATP. Through this outreach, people were encouraged to provide input on their top priorities when it comes to active transportation. Common themes included:

  • Increased safety. Almost 75 percent of those surveyed don’t feel safe using active transportation. They want to see lower speed limits and additional lighting on sidewalks and bike lanes.
  • Better access and connections to trails and continuous bike lanes along with connections to places that are frequently visited destinations.
  • Sidewalk improvements, including curb maintenance and the removal of physical barriers.
  • Roadway crossing improvements to help Texans feel more confident crossing the street.

With one round of outreach complete, TxDOT said it is now focused on analyzing community feedback and individual input to fine-tune the SATP. This plan is evaluating best practices, specific case studies and research for improving biking, walking and rolling. Through recommended strategies and actions, the plan will work to integrate safety, accessibility, comfort, connectivity, community needs, health and economic vitality.

TxDOT noted that it is working on the SATP in conjunction with its Statewide Multimodal Transit Plan and will collect additional public input on a draft plan to be released in the fall of 2024. The agency pointed out that the public will have the opportunity to evaluate recommendations and provide input on the SATP’s draft plan before it is presented to the Texas Transportation Commission in late 2024.

In November 2023, the Texas Transportation Commission approved over $345 million for new sidewalks, bikeways, and other types of active transportation infrastructure projects statewide.

That funding supported 83 projects designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian access while providing safety enhancements and mobility options to schools, jobs, public transit systems, and local destinations, the commission said. TxDOT noted that some the projects approved by the commission include sidewalks connecting to schools and transit options, shared-use paths benefiting both pedestrians and cyclists, new pedestrian bridges, and 15 planning studies.

Several state departments of transportation across the country have also introduced active transportation-specific plans in recent years.

For example, the Kansas Department of Transportation unveiled a revised active transportation plan in May 2023 to boost walking, bicycling, safe wheelchair use, skateboarding, and non-motorized vehicle mobility options across the state.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation also began working on its first-ever active transportation plan in 2023 – a policy toolkit the agency said can be used internally and by Oklahoma counties and towns as engineers and designers look to develop more people-friendly infrastructure.

The plan will address walking, biking, “wheelchairs and mobility scooters, pedal and electric scooters, electric bikes, skateboards, and other similar wheeled vehicles,” according to a website developed by the agency that details the plan’s contents.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation unveiled a formal Active Transportation Plan in December 2021 – a plan that subsequently won the 2022 America’s Transportation Awards contest’s “People’s Choice Award.”

Utah DOT Issues $95M to Begin Building Utah Trail Network

The Utah Department of Transportation recently issued nearly $95 million to support 19 trail projects – including the construction of new paved trails as well as funding for planning efforts to fill in existing trail gaps – as part of creating a regional “Utah Trail Network” across the state. 

[Above photo by Utah DOT]

That agency said that it collaborated with communities statewide regarding the allocation of that funding – approved by the Utah Transportation Commission – to select the key projects for this statewide trail network. 

Of the projects selected for this inaugural round of funding, 13 are considered construction ready and could get underway as soon as 2025, the agency said – depending on contractor schedules, supply availability and other factors like weather.

“Generations from now people will look back at this moment and realize how pivotal the Utah Trail Network was in changing the way we travel,” noted Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah DOT, in a statement. “These projects will connect communities in ways that provide transportation choices for everyone to commute, recreate, and enjoy.”

Braceras noted that, in 2022, Governor Spencer Cox (R) supported the vision for a statewide trail network that would connect state residents of all ages and abilities to their destinations and communities throughout the state. Then, in 2023, the state legislature created the Active Transportation Investment Fund to help support Utah’s trail-building endeavor.

“We have heard the public asking for more trails and are inspired by the trail planning and development efforts across the state,” Braceras said. “These efforts are bringing people together, and we want to do our part by connecting communities through a state funded program that will build trails as part of the state’s transportation system.”

Other state departments of transportation are engaged in similar efforts.

For example, Governor Ned Lamont (D) and the Connecticut Department of Transportation recently hosted a grand opening event for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connection, which provides non-motorized access across the Connecticut River by linking the shared-use path on the Putnam Bridge to Great Meadow Road in Wethersfield and Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury.

Built by the agency and funded by the state, the expanded trail connection provides a safe, convenient, and functional active transportation option for the traveling public, the governor noted in a statement.

“The Putnam Bridge Trail Connection gives bicyclists and pedestrians a new option of crossing the Connecticut River without needing a motor vehicle, linking the active communities of Wethersfield and Glastonbury,” Gov. Lamont pointed out.

“We anticipate that people will find this trail to be a convenient way of getting to work, exploring local shops and restaurants, or just enjoying a scenic recreational opportunity – all while being able to leave the car at home,” he said.

“This collaborative effort demonstrates the need to build alternative routes for all road users to decrease injuries and fatalities on our roadways,” added Garrett Eucalitto, commissioner of the Connecticut DOT.

There are significant economic benefits to making such trail investments as well.

According to a recent episode of the “Talking Michigan Transportation” podcast – produced by the Michigan Department of Transportation –Julie Clark, chief executive officer for the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation or TART Trails advocacy group, discussed how trail networks can enhance quality of life for residents while also providing an economic boost.

The economic value of trail networks comes from the key role they play in outdoor recreation, Clark said. For example, in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released statistics estimating that outdoor recreation accounted for $862 billion in economic output or consumer spending), 1.9 percent or $454 billion of gross domestic product, and supported 4.5 million jobs. 

Active Mobility Key Part of Utah DOT Construction Plan

The Utah Department of Transportation unveiled its 2024 construction plan, which encompasses 209 projects with a total value of $2.74 billion. Many of those projects include critical active transportation components, the agency said.

[Above photo by Utah DOT]

Lisa Wilson, Utah DOT deputy director of engineering and operations, noted in a statement that planned improvements incorporated within the agency’s 2024 construction plan range from repaving rural highways, building freeway-style interchanges, replacing aging bridges, improving pedestrian access, and building new trails.

“These projects are part of our commitment to helping people get where they want, in the way they want, safely and efficiently,” Wilson said. “This includes building new projects to help meet growth demands, maintaining our aging roads and bridges, and building out our transportation network to accommodate drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Just some of the major projects Utah DOT plans to start work on this year that incorporate active transportation elements include:

  • The Mountain View Corridor: This $466 million project will connect the Mountain View Corridor from Porter Rockwell Blvd with 2100 North in Lehi, providing another much-needed transportation option for northwest Utah County and southwest Salt Lake County drivers. It will be the first section of Mountain View Corridor constructed as a freeway with no stoplights. Additional work includes upgrading the intersection at 2100 North to an interchange, updating wildlife fencing, and creating a multi-use trail. The Mountain View Corridor will eventually be a 35-mile freeway from I-80 in Salt Lake County to SR-73 in Utah County. Construction is expected to last through early 2026.
  • 5600 South: This $361 million project incorporates building a new I-15 interchange at 5600 South in Roy that will make it easier to get to and from Hill Air Force Base. The project is also widening 5600 South from three to five lanes from I-15 to 3500 West. Utah DOT will also add new sidewalks, pedestrian ramps, and a new trail system for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. These improvements will help area residents get around more easily, whether they are walking, biking or driving. Construction started in 2023 and is expected to continue through 2026. 
  • I-15 Shepard Lane interchange: This $147.5 million project will build a new interchange on I-15 at Shepard Lane in Farmington to reduce congestion and improve safety in this area. Not only will it cross over Union Pacific Railroad and Utah Transit Authority tracks to create another connection to local roads, this project will also improve pedestrian and bike connectivity along Park Lane, along with improvements to ramps associated with I-15, US-89, and Legacy Parkway (SR-67). Construction is expected to wrap up in 2026.

Other state departments of transportation have also formally launched their 2024 construction efforts.

The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to invest $2.8 billion into 950 road and bridge improvement projects across the state during its 2024 construction season – with 39 of them classified as “major projects” with a value above $10 million.

Michigan DOT Podcast Talks Benefits of Trails

The latest “Talking Michigan Transportation” podcast – produced by the Michigan Department of Transportation – interviewed Julie Clark, chief executive officer for the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation or TART Trails advocacy group to discuss how trail networks can enhance quality of life for residents while also providing an economic boost.

[Above image via Michigan DOT]
The economic value of trail networks comes from the key role they play in outdoor recreation, Clark said. For example, in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released statistics estimating that outdoor recreation accounted for $862 billion in economic output or consumer spending), 1.9 percent or $454 billion of gross domestic product, and supported 4.5 million jobs. 

In Michigan, outdoor recreation in 2021 contributed $10.8 billion to the state economy, according to that agency’s numbers, as well as support for 109,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages.

“Our vision is ‘every house a trailhead,’ meaning we want people to be able to leave their home and access a trail,” Clark noted. “Getting out on the trails doesn’t mean there’s a trail up to your door, but the facilities – whether you’re rural or in a town – should be nearby and you should feel very comfortable and safe using them. That is where we come in, working with [local] road commissions and state DOTs.”

She also emphasized that trails help increase property values and help reinvigorate neighborhoods –key economic development benefits for communities.

“They also provide, as COVID [the COVID-19 pandemic] pointed out, some really important opportunities for physical and mental health, and that I think has become so important to folks all around our region and, I think, around the state,” Clark noted.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

There has been an ongoing push over the last several years to increase trail networks across the country.

For example, in January 2023, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy or RTC recently launched a national effort aimed at creating a “new community” where public leaders, advocates, and transportation professionals can come together to advance the development of trails and other active-transportation networks across the country.

Dubbed the TrailNation Collaborative, this new “community effort” seeks to fill what RTC describes as an “unmet need” for peer learning and collective action in order to leverage funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA to create a connected systems of trails, sidewalks, and protected bike lanes in every community in America.

State departments of transportation around the country are also spearheading their own trail expansion efforts.

For example, the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail project – the winner of the 2023 America’s Transportations Awards People’s Choice Award – is a 93-mile multi-modal recreational path in northern Vermont, connecting 18 town centers and linking to other trails in Vermont and Canada.

This project is open year-round for various activities, including walking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing, preserving Vermont’s natural landscape.

In November 2023, the Texas Transportation Commission approved over $345 million for new sidewalks, bikeways, and other types of active transportation infrastructure projects statewide.

The funding will go towards 83 projects designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian access while providing safety enhancements and mobility options to schools, jobs, public transit systems, and local destinations, the commission said.

The Texas Department of Transportation noted that some the projects approved by the commission include sidewalks connecting to schools and transit options, shared-use paths benefiting both pedestrians and cyclists, new pedestrian bridges, and 15 planning studies.

In July 2022, a team of Utah State University researchers recently explored how to use the state’s network of historic canal trails as an active transportation solution. That study is poised to help the Utah Department of Transportation and community leaders make decisions about building canal paths and trails.

The Utah DOT funded the university’s research project – entitled “Active Transportation Facilities in Canal Corridors” – that the American Society of Civil Engineers subsequently published in June 2022.

Minnesota Cities Getting Active Transportation Grants

Eight cities across Minnesota are set to receive grants from the Active Transportation Planning Assistance program, which is managed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

That program aims to help cities statewide increase the number of people walking and biking to destinations in their communities, noted Will Wlizlo, active transportation coordinator for the Minnesota DOT.

“Whether a community wants to reduce pollution, curb traffic, revitalize its Main Street, or increase residents’ health and safety, [our] Active Transportation Planning Assistance program brings together neighbors to dream big and develop a work plan for building their own network for walking and bicycling,” he said in a statement.

The agency noted that the Minnesota legislature provides funds for those grants, which cover the estimated $100,000 cost of technical assistance from a consultant, such as developing an action plan and demonstration project.

The Minnesota DOT added that each community receiving an award is ultimately responsible for implementation and construction costs of their active transportation action plan.

The agency noted that the eight cities receiving grants are:

  • Minneapolis, for a multi-corridor study for seven neighborhood greenways;
  • Rochester, for an active transportation connection plan along 2nd Street through the downtown area;
  • St. Paul, for a neighborhood active transportation study for the West Side neighborhood;
  • Coon Rapids, for a community-wide active transportation plan;
  • Roseville, to develop a bicycle master plan;
  • Alexandria, for a community-wide active transportation plan;
  • St. Peter, for a community-wide active transportation plan; and,
  • Cannon Falls, for a community-wide active transportation plan.

State departments of transportation are currently involved in a variety of efforts to increase active transportation across the country.

For example, in November 2023, the Texas Transportation Commission approved over $345 million for new sidewalks, bikeways, and other types of active transportation infrastructure projects statewide.

That funding will go towards 83 projects designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian access while providing safety enhancements and mobility options to schools, jobs, public transit systems, and local destinations, the commission said.

The Texas Department of Transportation noted that funding includes support for 15 active transportation planning studies.

And in Maryland, Governor Wes Moore (D) highlighted the award of $25.5 million in grants to 40 bicycle, pedestrian and trail projects statewide in September 2023.

Those fiscal year 2024 grants include $20.8 million in federal funding for 22 projects through the national Transportation Alternatives Program and the Recreational Trails Program, with $4.7 million in state funding headed to 18 projects via the Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network Program overseen by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

MassDOT Touts 2023 Multimodal Trail Construction

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation noted it built and opened approximately 20 miles of shared use paths in 2023, while also expanding multimodal connectivity and opportunities for recreation statewide as well as enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

[Above photo by MassDOT]

The 20 miles of shared paths that opened in 2023 was the result of completed projects, either constructed by MassDOT or jointly funded through the MassTrails program, along 14 different trails across Massachusetts. 

In May 2023, the MassTrails Team officially launched its Priority Trails Network map. By the end of 2024, the agency said 25 additional miles of shared paths are expected to open statewide, further expanding multimodal connectivity for Massachusetts.

Throughout the course of 2023, MassDOT said it also completed dozens of roadway projects that added new bike lanes, sidewalks, shared use paths, and crosswalks. Additionally, MassDOT continued to support improvements in school zones and the expansion of shared paths and trails through programs like Safe Routes to School, Shared Streets and Spaces, Complete Streets, and MassTrails, which have all helped to prioritize investments in municipalities to create safer, multimodal travel.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt. Photo by MassDOT.

“I want to commend our dedicated teams at MassDOT for the progress they made over the course of 2023 to give our communities more miles of multimodal connectivity,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt in a statement

“These projects are designed to make our transportation network safer, more practical and more inclusive for all users,” she added. “We have many achievements to be proud of – and great momentum for 2024.”

“When we expand and enhance our inventory of multimodal paths, we are not just removing barriers to biking and walking, but setting the foundations for healthier, safer, more prosperous communities,” noted Peter Sutton, MassDOT bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

“This success was possible thanks to our team’s great dedication, as well as the invaluable collaboration of the community leaders and advocates who continue to work with us on behalf of those who rely on our transportation systems,” he said.       

MassDOT noted the MassTrails Team consists of MassDOT, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Continuing efforts to support the state’s growing network of trails, in 2023 the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced $11 million in its fifth annual round of MassTrails Grants to 68 projects across Massachusetts.

The grants provide assistance for the construction, maintenance and improvements for a variety of public trails throughout the state trails system, such as hiking trails, bikeways and shared-use paths, MassDOT noted.

ETAP Podcast Discusses Active Transportation

The second episode of a four-part Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast series focuses on the crucial connections required between planners, policymakers, and local communities in order to make active transportation systems more attractive and inclusive for all users. (To listen to the first episode, click here.)

[Above photo by AASHTO]

“Active transportation” encompasses “human-powered” mobility options, such as biking or walking, and is also viewed as a way to help bridge the first- and last-mile gap in public transit systems. Active transportation also offers public health benefits as well, as it engages users in physical activity.

This ETAP podcast episode sits down with Tamika Butler, principal of Tamika Butler Consulting, who describes how her firm strives to help build more equitable and inclusive active transportation systems for minority and low-income communities.

The podcast also visits with Joshua Phillips, communications and public relations coordinator for the Alabama Department of Transportation, about “City Walk Birmingham,” also known as “City Walk BHAM.”

The recent completion of Birmingham’s I-59/20 Central Business District (CBD) Interstate bridges brings about a renewed focus on the space underneath the bridges known as City Walk BHAM. The goal of the project is to provide a space to assist in reconnecting Birmingham and create a destination and common area open to all citizens.

Conceptual planning began on City Walk BHAM in 2014 as a way to create a “fresh and vibrant space” underneath the I-59/20 Central Business District Interstate bridges.

Phillips noted on the podcast that at every phase of the project, Alabama DOT worked to engage the public in the project so it could be better tailored to pedestrian needs; an effort that resulted in the creation of public park and recreation spaces within the project.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

RIDOT Helps Support ‘Gotham Greens’ Path Project

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is helping support – in concert with various federal, state, and local agencies – the new “Gotham Greens” off-road multi-use path along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway via stormwater mitigation efforts.

[Above photo by RIDOT]

This new path, located behind the Gotham Greens building in Olneyville, offers new access to the Woonasquatucket River and will serve as a connector between the Greenway and the Washington Secondary Bike Path – helping “knit together” a “patchwork of pathways” in the City of Providence to promote active transportation use while protecting the local environment from stormwater flooding.

The nonprofit Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, the City of Providence, and Gotham Greens jointly built the new path, while RIDOT – in concert with the Environmental Protection Agency, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program – will work to mitigate the potential for future flooding along the pathway.

“Urban flooding and resilience are complex issues that demand collaborative, innovative, and targeted responses,” explained Governor Dan McKee (D) in a statement.

This second phase of improvements to the pathway – currently under RIDOT’s supervision and supported in part by the National Coastal Resilience Fund – focuses on streambank restoration and “green infrastructure,” which is the installation of plants, soil, and other natural materials to manage stormwater and prevent flooding and pollution.

Colorado DOT Wraps Revitalizing Main Street Project

The Colorado Department of Transportation recently completed a Revitalizing Main Streets or RMS grant project in partnership with the City of Leadville and the Leadville Main Street Program or LMSP that transformed a “parklet” into a safe, secure and accessible amenity for all residents and visitors

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The agency’s RMS program funds infrastructure improvements for towns and cities across Colorado aimed at making walking and biking easier, encouraging economic development, supporting community access to public streets and multimodal transportation, and bringing innovative uses of public spaces for people to life.

Those RMS funds are used for infrastructure improvement projects that meet the aim of the program and “shovel ready,” therefore can be completed within a 12-month period from grant contract execution, if approved. To date, Colorado DOT said the RMS program has issued 191 grants.

This new parklet facility Colorado DOT helped the City of Leadville will serve as an “anchor feature” for the community; a facility that includes a handwashing station, pet area, bench, picnic table and bike racks. This parklet is adjacent to the Leadville Lake County Visitor’s Center with adequate bike and vehicle parking to serve residents and visitors.

Through this grant, the LMSP worked in partnership with 10 vital partners and agencies and a group of local volunteers to create a community-driven project; one that included a local artist to integrate the historically bright, colorful look, and feel of the City of Leadville into this new amenity.

“With the approach of working collaboratively with partners, stakeholders and community members, this parklet was able to come to life. This safe space will strengthen the connection of people to Leadville’s main street and other central economic hubs,” said Shoshana Lew, Colorado DOT’s executive director, in a statement.

Michigan DOT Grants Help Improve Transit Access

The Michigan Department of Transportation is making it easier for Michigan residents to catch a ride on a bus, rideshare, bicycle, or scooter through its Michigan Mobility Wallet Challenge, a pilot grant program to open up transit options to everyone.

[Above photo by Michigan DOT]

The goal of the program is to make transit services more affordable and simpler for all citizens, including the disabled, poor, veterans and seniors. The idea of the “mobility wallet” is to create an app or smart card that can be used for multiple transit options in a community.

On a recent episode of its podcast series “Talking Michigan Transportation,” the Michigan DOT highlighted one of its non-profit grant recipients, Feonix–Mobility Rising.

Feonix developed a mobility wallet to allow veterans in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Jackson, and surrounding areas greater access to transit services. The organization added that it plans to expand the program by January 2024 to include individuals and families experiencing poverty.

Feonix CEO Valerie Lefler explained how the company’s program works by using the example of a veteran who has cancer and no nearby family to drive him to his chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The veteran can use the mobility wallet to take the bus until he needs more assistance. The wallet then can be used for an Uber or taxi or an Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA-compliant paratransit vehicle.

Lefler cited a 2018 Veterans Administration study concerning the challenges veterans have in securing adequate transportation. One veteran in that study talked about why his war-induced post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD prevented him from taking a bus to his medical appointments because of the shaking and jostling.

“If we can spend $30 million to equip him with gear and ammunition and all the things that they need in warfare, why can we not give these men and women an Uber or a taxi or a service when they’re seeking treatment, trying to recover from those experiences?” Lefler said on the podcast.

Ecolane Inc., also received a grant to develop a multimodal mobile transit application and smart card that uses Zig, a sensory technology that allows users to pay without having the remove their smart phone or card from their wallet. The technology, demonstrated in this video, is fully compliant with the ADA. Ecolane’s app will be available for nine transit agencies in Michigan.

Michigan DOT Director Brad Wieferich said in a news release that the mobility wallet program demonstrates that “Michigan is on the forefront of innovations in developing new technologies for public transit users.”