Funding the Trail System - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Funding the Trail System

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

According to the Billings Area Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, if the community wants trails to keep being built, a different source of funding or supplemental source of funding will have to be found. The city does not get federal grants from the federal government like it used too.

KULR-8 spoke with Kristi Drake with Billings TrailNet. She s also the Vice Chair for the bicycle advisory committee. Drake explained that the city of Billings is a metropolitan planning organization, which means the city used to get CTEP funding. That funding enabled the city to build trails. However, back in 2012, the program went away.

Now, the Transportation Alternative Program from the federal government is in place for CTEP. This program gives a certain amount to each state. The city now has to figure out a new way to fund trail and bikeway infrastructure. The trail system is not just a way for people to stay active but also a way for kids to get to school and adults to get to work. "We want our kids to be able to use them to get to school. I personally would rather have my children use a trail that's away from traffic, where there's not a texting problem or distracted driving. We really want kids to be able to use the trails. And adults too! I hear a lot of adults saying they really like to bike to work or bike to a grocery store. And not everyone feels comfortable on a street. So having that separation between the traffic and the trail is really important," explained Drake.

According to Drake, the park department conducted a survey on the Billings community. It asked residents to rank the most important facilities to them. Based on residents' top choices, walking and biking trails was #1.

According to the committee's information given to KULR-8, since CTEP was taken away, there has been an 82% decrease in funding trails. The federal funding from 2008 to 2012 was at $3.87 million. From 2012 to 2016, the funding went down to $.66 million. The committee explained in it's information packet that if the city wants Marathon Loop to be completed in the next 10 years, the city would have to maintain the 2008-2012 level of funding. The committee estimated that approximately $1 million a year is needed to fill that gap.

New trails cost about $350k a mile and funding is still needed to maintain infrastructure that's already in place. The committee also has opportunities to allocate existing transportation funding areas, as well as, opportunities for new funding.

Drake also said there will be a Billings TrailNet Summit on July 18. The public is encouraged to attend and hear about the trail system and how to fund it.

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