Emily Yetman speaks in support of bicycle boulevards.

Community support for bicycle boulevards prevented an amendment from being attached to a long-range transportation plan at a meeting on Thursday. The amendment would have limited funding for the boulevards.

The 2040 Regional Transportation Plan was approved Thursday by the regional council, a collection of officials from local governments.

Bicycle boulevard supporters were concerned about a June 11, 2010 memo from Pima County administrator Chuck Huckelberry to county supervisor Ramón Valadez in which Huckelberry expressed concern that bicycle boulevards would be part of the 2040 plan and could be funded by money from the half-cent sales tax hike despite not being approved by the voters in 2005.

The major concern with this particular element of the RTP is that the stated intent is to apply Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) funds for such purposes. Attachment 2 is an excerpt from the RTA plan adopted by the voters in 2006. There is no specific mention of bicycle boulevard improvements: thus, we believe that the use of RTA funds for this purpose in inappropriate.

All the governments included in the RTA have had projects that were not originally included in the RTA plan funded through the RTA.

Huckelberry suggested an amendment be added to the plan preventing the City of Tucson from using any regional money for bicycle boulevards. Had the amendment been included, bicycle boulevards would be severely limited in their options for funding.

Local bicycle advocates mobilized support for boulevards through comments submitted online to the Pima Association of Governments.

Of the 136 comments PAG received about the draft 2040 plan, 105 (77 percent) of them were in reference to bicycle and pedestrian projects.

According to Ian Johnson, the creator of a website that allowed visitors to easily comment on the plan and who advocates for bicycle boulevards, at least 80 of those comments were in support of the boulevards.

Karen Berchtold, the chair of the Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, told the council that the BAC has passed motions and written letters in support of bicycle boulevards.

City of Tucson transportation director Jim Glock said the amendment limiting how bicycle boulevards are funded was not added to the motion because of the large showing of support for the boulevards from the community.

Though they attended a meeting immediately before the 2040 plan approval, Pima County officials were not present for the vote. The rest of the council unanimously approved the motion.

Johnson said he was happy the funding for bike boulevards won’t be limited, but said there was more work to do.

“I think we have a long way to go before the funding is actually in place and bike boulevards are built,” Johnson said. “I think we really need to have a discussion about priorities given our limited funds. That is a big discussion that a lot of people need to be involved in. At least keeping the discussion open was a victory.”

RTA board commits matching funds for federal grants

In a meeting just before the regional council meeting, the Regional Transportation Authority’s board passed a motion that will provide money for local governments that apply for Federal Transportation Enhancement grants.

The grants require 5.7 percent matching funds from local governments before they can be considered and funded.

The RTA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Working Group requested the matching funds be provided because this year there is extra money to fund projects on a federal level.

Supervisor Ramón Valadez expressed concern about funding projects that were not originally approved by the voters in 2005. He was also concerned that it would commit the RTA to providing matching funds for years to come.

The board decided to provide matching funding for this two-year funding cycle as a trial.

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