More than $1 million originally planned for Anchorage bike infrastructure in 2012 is now being allocated for use on other road projects instead.
Back in 2012 more than 125 people wrote to AMATS asking for more money to be put toward building things like bike lanes and putting up signs to make the city safer. AMATS is Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions — the federally funded group that’s responsible for transportation projects in the Muni. $1 million had already been set aside for design. Advocates convinced AMATS to add another $1.3 million.
The state’s Department of Transportation was supposed to obligate that $1.3 million for project design by September of 2014. They didn’t. DOT Project manager David Post says the department was running late in finding a project manager to do the design work. Once they found one, he says they thought the original $1 million was enough.
“And I think they’ve got plenty of money to keep them moving forward, certainly at the rate they’re progressing,” he said.
The money is enough to design 10 to 12 bike infrastructure projects. The bike plan includes nearly 300. They range in size from painting stripes on the side of the road to designate a bike lane all the way up to building new off-road bike trails. Some of the projects are already elements of larger transportation projects.
“So we went ahead and de-obligated that money, or let it go on to other projects,” said DOT spokesperson Jill Reese. “It’s really difficult to trace down what those projects are, but that’s really beside the point.”
The decision to move the money was made in September. It was included in a report to AMATS but never publicly highlighted or discussed. But minutes from the November 2014 AMATS Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) detail comments from DOT representatives that said the full $2.3 million had been obligated for bike plan implementation.
Bike Anchorage president Brian Litmans is a member of the BPAC. He discovered that the money had been removed from the bike project. He says the move is a major setback for implementing the bike plan because more design work would have made more projects ready for construction funding.
“DOT referred to it as –quote– ‘a little snafu'” during the March BPAC meeting, he said. “And I find that unfortunate, especially when we are lacking bicycle infrastructure in this city. We only have 10 miles of bike lanes and most other cities that have the number of bicyclists that we do have much more bicycle infrastructure and as a result their cities are much safer than ours.”
City transportation planning manager Craig Lyon says he did not know the money was moved until recently and that DOT has never previously mentioned that they did not need the $1.3 million for design work. He says he is trying to locate pots of money left over from completed projects to put toward the bike plan, but ultimately it is up to the AMATS policy committee to commit funds.