We pay for the roads, let’s join in how they are planned
When large road projects are built, we get a lot of people asking, “Why was the road built now? Why doesn’t it have sidewalks?” For large transportation projects, the answers can usually be traced back to the Long Range Plan produced by our metropolitan planning organization, East West Gateway Council of Governments. The Long Range Plan sets guiding principles for improving transportation in the region, along with creating a phased list of large-scale projects for the next 30 years. The plans are updated every five years, and the planning process for the next Long Range Plan is going on now.
Talking about transportation priorities in 30 year can seem abstract but the guiding principles in the Long Range Plan are the key to how approximately $40 million gets spent on transportation every year in our region. When your city or county wants to build and improve streets, intersections, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, they often rely on transportation funds through East West Gateway. The projects are chosen using a scoring system based on the priorities in the Long Range Plan. The highest scoring projects end up in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and are funded and built.
East West Gateway is working on a new Long Range Plan, so NOW is the time to speak up about your priorities for the region, and where you would like to see our money spent. East West Gateway is hosting a free speaker series at the Missouri History Museum that focuses on regional transportation issues with interactive audience polling. Click here for information and the dates for all four events.
The first event on June 18 at 7:00 pm is “Back to the Future: How St. Louis’ Transportation Past Informs our Future.” The speakers will look back at the history of transportation in St. Louis, which was founded before cars, streetcars, and even bicycles, to see what we can learn for the future. The speakers will be followed by a keypad polling session to gather public feedback on priorities.
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of St. Louis transportation, and make your voice heard about the future of transportation in St. Louis. In 2013, East West Gateway finished a three year, $4.6 million plan, OneSTL, to support sustainability in the region. We need to make sure the common-sense recommendations for sustainable transportation and funding are carried into the Long Range Plan. Trailnet will be at the meeting, advocating for improving and expanding sustainable transportation, including making transit, walking, and bicycling infrastructure a priority for the region.
We will also be focusing on financial sustainability. Every year, as we hear about bridges deteriorating and highways needing to be rebuilt, it is a reminder that our infrastructure does not last forever. We will be asking East West Gateway to help local governments build projects that they can afford to maintain and rebuild, when the time comes. All grant applications should include a financial plan for paying for regular maintenance on roads, along with reconstruction costs when the engineers estimate the road will need to be rebuilt, usually about 40 to 60 years.
By looking forward and anticipating our costs, we can make sure that we are building a resilient transportation system, and that we won’t burden our children with the cost of maintaining and rebuilding a transportation system we built without planning. We do this kind of long-term budgeting everyday in our own lives when we save for retirement, and in our businesses, when we set aside money to fix or replace equipment when needed. Let’s make sure our transportation budget fits the same standards. And if a local government can’t afford to replace a bridge once it can no longer support trucks, we can always look into giving the infrastructure to people walking and bicycling.