By Brandi Makuski
City officials announced this week Stevens Point has been awarded a federal grant of just over $391,000.
The funds will be used to create almost 14 miles of bike lanes — and to install clear signage for bicyclists, with destination routes — on existing roadways throughout the city.
The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) was granted approval to apply for a Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant from the Dept. of Transportation by the city council in January.
Mayor Mike Wiza made the announcement at the Sept. 6 plan commission meeting, saying the city had just been notified of the award that afternoon.
“Those monies are going to be used to create a little over 13 miles of safe bicycling and pedestrian routes through the city’s core areas,” Wiza said. “So that is pretty exciting for the area.”
One condition of the grant award requires the city to fund 20 percent of the total project cost, according to city documents — which comes to almost $100,000. Wiza said the city would have to “shuffle some more numbers around to try to cover [that cost]”.
Trevor Roark, vice chair of BPAC, said the grant would allow the city to create a “network” that better connects several neighborhoods for those using alternative forms of transportation.
“And it connects residents and visitors to major businesses and employment areas, schools, neighboring jurisdictions, parks and existing bike facilities,” he said.
Rourke added the project was developed based on guidelines from the Dept. of Transportation and the Portage Co. Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which was adopted by both the county and the city in 2015.
Tori Jennings, BPAC chair, said she and Roark were working on the grant application for “two months straight” beginning last December, and now looks forward to implementing greater safety measures for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“Considering the process BPAC has started about educating the public on bicycle safety and facilities, we can now push harder to get people off sidewalks,” Jennings said.
Jennings added currently, few roads in the city offer a safe place for bicyclists to ride on the roadway.
“Right now our roads say, ‘This is only for cars’,” she said. “This will change that dynamic, but right now it’s really hard to get people off the sidewalk when we don’t have proper facilities to safely ride your bike off the sidewalk.”
Wiza said the planning phase for the project will begin in 2017, with construction to begin in 2019.