Shasta County may have more money than ever this year to dedicate toward bike and pedestrian transit projects following a vote by the Shasta Regional Transportation Board (SRTB) on Wednesday night, but the shift in funding also leaves more densely populated areas with less funding to make road and sidewalks repairs fixes some detractors of the decisions say are greatly needed and amount to a better use of the money.
The board voted by a narrow 4-3 margin for the switch, choosing to earmark some $405,643 remaining federal funds the county had yet to spend for alternative transit projects aimed at getting more people out from behind the wheel. In the past that surplus money had been passed down for transit projects in the cities of Anderson, Shasta Lake and Redding.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm for bike and pedestrian projects, but if people expect an explosion of these pedestrian and bike lanes in the unincorporated areas they may be disappointed," said David Kehoe, a county supervisor and SRTB member who voted against the change.
"In my mind there are not that many (qualified) opportunities out there in the rural or unincorporated areas of the county."
Kehoe said he and most others on the SRTB supported developing more biking and walking options, but he felt the funds could be most efficiently put to use in the greater Redding area.
"These are funds intended for public transit in rural areas with populations less than 50,000," said Redding Vice Mayor and SRTB member Patrick Jones. "So how much public transit need is there in these areas, and will this be an efficient use of those funds?"
Over the past couple of years the surplus money has been divvied up among the cities based on population, with Redding receiving about 80 percent, which would have amounted to a little more than $300,000 this year if it had been passed along, said Redding Public Works Director Brian Crane.
"Probably one of the biggest needs in terms of public works is fixing infrastructure, be it water or sewer pipes in the ground, but also the ground you drive on," Crane said. "Some of the argument is that the cities aren't using the money for non-motorized needs but if you look at the paving projects we do I think they all have a non-motorized benefit, in my opinion."
Crane said the redevelopment of Parkview Avenue south of City Hall was a perfect example. The old four-lane road was reworked to include two lanes for vehicle traffic, a center turn lane and bike lanes on either side when it was refinished a few years ago.
He said the city spends about $1 million to $1.5 million on paving projects each year, "so we're looking at a pretty substantial impact to our pavement budget."
County Public Works Director Pat Minturn said the whole idea of the Shasta Regional Transit Agency was to develop promote regional transit planning and infrastructure.
"Certainly you need to have complete streets that provide for bikes and pedestrians," Minturn said. "From a regional standpoint this is probably a neutral use of the money, but from the county standpoint, we'll come up with a useful use for it."
The Shasta Regional Transportation Agency will look for proposals from public and non-government organizations leading up to the next board meeting in June, said Dan Little, the agency's executive director. It will also reach out to some outfits directly to help evaluate and identify projects that could have a substantial impact on the community.
Minturn said the county plans to submit a proposal, but is waiting for clarification on guidelines before it can identify which transit projects might be the best fit.
If You Go:
What: Shasta Regional Transportation Board meeting
When: 3 p.m., June 24
Where: Anderson City Council chambers, 1887 Howard St.
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