City officials agreed to pursue a grant to install sidewalks along a stretch of Highway 50 which may be the first phase of a larger sidewalk project.
Monday night aldermen approved an ordinance entering onto an agreement with Cochran for engineering services for the project.
Last week, Dave Christensen, with Cochran, suggested the city apply for a Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant offered through East-West Gateway. The application is due at the end of July.
The sidewalks would extend from Hoover Avenue east to Oak Street. There would be a pedestrian bridge connected the sidewalk to Central Elementary School.
The sidewalks would be 8 feet wide and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
“This could be Phase I of many phases of a sidewalk project on Highway 50,” Christensen said.
The TAP grant provides funding for on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving nondriver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities, environmental mitigation, and safe routes to school projects.
The city must provide a 20 percent funding match if it receives the grant. The city’s match is estimated at $135,000, according to Christensen.
“This is right in the heart of (Highway 50),” said Alderman Dustin Bailey. “I think this is a valuable start.”
Each year the city applies for Surface Transportation Program (STP) grants through East-West Gateway, however the application process is becoming increasingly competitive, Christensen said.
He noted that STP projects are funded about four years after they are approved, while a TAP project could begin much quicker.
The project also falls in line with city priorities in its bikable/walkable community plan.
In 2012, the city adopted a bicycle and pedestrian plan presented by St. Louis firm Trailnet.
A forum was held in 2011 where it was recommended that 23 miles of sidewalks be added to the city’s existing 15 to 16 miles of sidewalks.
At the forum, the public was able to look at maps outlining where possible trails, sidewalks and other facilities could be added throughout Union.
Connections between parks and schools in Ward 3 also are included in the plan.
In addition to these recommendations, Trailnet representatives said the city should consider programs for walkers and cyclists, such as events like Sunday Parkways, where public streets are closed to vehicles so that activity stations can be placed along the streets for cyclists and walkers.
Other programs include organized bike rides and youth bike safety education programs like bike rodeos.
A Trailnet survey conducted in 2011 asked what specific locations had barriers or obstacles to pedestrian and bicycle travel in Union. Survey takers responded that more sidewalks are needed.
Respondents said a lack of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 50 over the Bourbeuse River and state Highway 47, especially on bridges, as well as many subdivisions and parts of Main Street and Springfield Avenue, Denmark Road, Prairie Dell Road and College Road were obstacles.
Poor pavement on side streets and no way to get from Ward 4 to the rest of Union were other concerns raised in the survey.
A lack of sidewalks is the factor that discouraged most people from walking, followed by automobile traffic and speed, unfriendly pedestrian streets and no buffers between sidewalks and roads. Aggressive motorist behavior and sidewalks in need of repair are other discouraging factors.
For cyclists, the most discouraging factor is the lack of off-street trails, followed by a lack of bicycle lanes, inconsiderate motorists, crossing busy roads and inadequate shoulder width.
Narrow lanes, high-speed automobile traffic and traffic volumes also were concerns expressed in the survey.
According to the survey, all of the respondents said the Union City Park is a destination they would most like to get to by bike or foot.
Other popular destinations include Union City Lake, Union Splash-N-Swimplex, East Central College, commercial destinations along Highway 50 and Clark-Vitt Park.
Fitness and recreation topped the list of reasons people currently walk or would want to walk in the future followed by walking the dog and transportation to local destinations, such as parks, grocery stores, the post office and library.
For cyclists, fitness and recreation also is the reason they currently bike followed by transportation to various destinations.
According to the survey, 47.6 percent rated current conditions for walking in Union as poor while 42.9 percent said they were fair and 9.5 percent rated them excellent.
When asked to rate the conditions for cyclists, 76.2 percent said poor, while 19 percent said fair and 4.8 percent said excellent.
About 85.7 percent of survey respondents said Union should consider nonmotorized transportation, like cycling and walking, as a priority and 71.4 percent said improving walking and bicycling conditions in Union is important to them.
Forty percent of respondents said they walk a few times per month and 35 percent said they walk a few times per week.
Ninety percent said they would walk more if new trails, sidewalks and safer routes were provided.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they never bike and 30 percent said they bike a few times per month.
When asked if they would bike more often if more trails and safer routes were offered, 70 percent said yes.